LAKEWOOD RANCH -- This time, there would be no tears and no heartbreak.
This time, the Lakewood Ranch volleyball team got it right.
This time was a long time coming, but it is here.
This time, the Mustangs are going to the state final four.
Lakewood Ranch made sure of that when it swept Fort Myers 3-0 on Saturday to win the Class 7A-Region 3 title and earn its second trip to the state tournament in three years.
The Mustangs went in 2012, but were denied a second trip last season when they were upset on their home court in the region final.
History was not going to repeat itself, Nicole Grant, Lakewood Ranch's top player, promised. Her teammates proved her to be a prophet by losing only one set in their six matches since the postseason began.
"We didn't want a repeat of last year, so it made us work harder," Grant said. "This team connects really well on and off the court, and that is such an advantage. This team has a lot of good energy. Our defense was on point. We were touching everything and trapping. We knew they had a lot of good hitters. We worked on defense in our preparation, and our blocks were set up nice."
Grant led the Mustangs with 16 kills and had three blocks, nine digs and an ace. The Mustangs' power game also got a good effort form Kahlee York, who had nine kills, 11 digs and an ace. But some unsung heroes provided a big spark, Lakewood Ranch head coach Perri Hankins said.
"We got two exceptional performances out of Coleen Campbell and Kelley Ainsworth, which made us be in synch as a team," Hankins said. "We tweaked our lineup a little bit where we could interchange some with Kelly and Shelby (Dollwet), and Shelby had a good game. We can move then middle or outside so we could get Ande (McDonald) in every rotation. Last time when we played Sarasota, we had her out of the rotation at times and I didn't like that."
Grant helped Lakewood Ranch (24-6) get off to a fast start when she registered nine kills in the Mustangs' 25-19 first set victory.
Lakewood Ranch was behind only in the second set, when Fort Myers (19-10) led 10-9. But the Mustangs answered with seven straight points. They led 23-22 and closed out the second set with two straight points, one coming on a kill from Layne Thompson.
Lakewood Ranch won the third set 25-22 with Grant getting the final point on a kill.
Courtney Rapp led Lakewood Ranch with 33 assists, Campbell had four kills, three blocks and an ace, and McDonald had 16 digs.
"They (Fort Myers) have some really tough players, and it challenges you. But this team is so different (than last year)," Hankins said. "They are very bonded, they are very calm on the court, and they have great confidence and belief that they are going to win. They have been able to step it up in games when they had to do that."
Lakewood Ranch will face Winter Springs in a Class 7A state semifinal at either 1 or 3 p.m. Friday at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee. The other semifinal has Lutz Steinbrenner facing Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.
The state 7A final is slated for 1:05 p.m. Saturday.