ORLANDO -- By its own coach's admission, Manatee didn't play its best volleyball match Saturday afternoon at Timber Creek's Wolves Den.
But that didn't prevent the Hurricanes from winning the biggest volleyball match in program history.
Shaking off a long bus ride and a batch of uncharacteristic hitting errors, Manatee swept Timber Creek 3-0 in the Class 8A-Region 2 championship match to reach the state semifinal for the first time.
The Hurricanes (23-5) will meet Orange City University on Friday at Kissimmee's Silver Spurs Arena.
"We missed way too many serves, but again, key players stepped up," said Tony Cothron, enjoying a banner first season coaching the Hurricanes. "I'm just so proud."
As pleased as he was with the win, Cothron was even more pleased with how his team closed it out, rallying from a 20-16 deficit to record a 26-24 win on an ace by freshman Stefani Keller in set 3.
It was a big point considering the Wolves rallied from 0-2 deficit to beat Vero Beach in the regional semifinals.
"I didn't want to give them any breathing room," Cothron said.
Manatee's offense sputtered at times -- the Canes committed five service errors in a 25-22 win in the first set -- but had enough big moments thanks to big hitters such as JoJo Coulter (12 kills) and Haley Coulter (11 kills).
"We definitely started off slow; we do that a lot," said Haley Coulter, who added eight digs. "But we're all confident in each other, and we know that one mistake doesn't determine a game or a set."
The Hurricanes never trailed in Set 2, winning 25-18, before Timber Creek (12-10) led for most of Set 3. The Wolves took a 24-23 lead on a kill by Kristen Johansson but lost possession on a service error.
A hitting error gave the Canes a 25-24 lead before Keller plunked in the winner, a well-struck liner that bounced off an open space on Timber Creek's side of the court.
"It's really exciting, especially for us freshmen," JoJo Coulter said. "We worked together, so I feel like we really earned it. ... We worked hard."
Gabby Coulter had 22 assists, and Jacqui Armer had six kills and two blocks. Jesse Durst, the lone senior on Manatee's roster, had 13 digs.
"Our goal is two more steps. That's been our goal all season," Cothron said. "I just know that if they the play the defense they can play, we are going to be hard to beat all the way through."
Manatee never made it past the region volleyball quarterfinals prior to this fall. Now the Hurricanes will spend this week prepping for the final four and a University team they beat in September during the Winter Park/Lake Highland Showcase.
"Beginning of the season, we set a goal to go to state," Haley said. "We really hadn't played together much, but after a couple of matches, we knew how good we really were and we knew that this was possible. We knew it was going to take some wins and some losses, but in the end, it would all be worth it.
"We are so pumped."