2012 volleyball season: What to watch for
CLASS 8A Is Plant, which was 18-9 last season when it advanced to the region quarterfinals, capable of a postseason run with its third coach in three years? "The girls are working hard and it's time for us to find our identity," said coach Jessica Lamm, who was the coach at Tampa Prep last season. "It's hard for the girls and myself, but we will come together as a team as the season goes on." Returning players include seniors hitter Ashley Cozart, middle Taylor Hart and libero Kylie Parks. Junior Kaitlyn Sibson has moved from hitter to libero."We aren't worried about where we are going (in the postseason)," Lamm said. "We focus on one game at a time." CLASS 7A Does Steinbrenner first-year coach Laura Stegenga feel pressure taking over a program that has averaged 20-plus wins the past three seasons? "I absolutely don't really feel pressure," said Stegenga, who was the JV coach at Gaither the past two seasons. "I've stuck with a lot of things (former Steinbrenner coach) Jennifer Graham did, and I want to absolutely hold (the players) to the same expectations." The Warriors, who were 24-6 last season, return seven players, including senior hitter Madison Seuzeneau and juniors hitter Rachel Mathison and setter Casey McLean. Sophomore setter Brooke Royals is also in the mix. "Madison and Rachel are top players," Stegenga said. "Casey was the only setter last year, but now Brooke has come into play since we run a 6-2 (formation)." Steinbrenner has not lost a set in winning the district the three years the school has been in existence, but it is looking for its first region title. "We are confident of winning the district, and regional is the immediate goal," Stegenga said. CLASS 6A What will it take for King to improve on last season, when the Lions advanced to the region quarterfinals? The Lions were 16-9 last season, and coach Cookie Mitchell is optimistic her team will be more than competitive because of team chemistry and physical size. "We lost three key players, but I picked up some height and we are looking pretty good," Mitchell said. "We have really good chemistry and a lot of talent. In all honesty, I think we will go 11-2 in the district." Returning players include seniors Mallory Mitchell and AnnMarie Mosiello, along with sophomore setter Mercedyz Mitchell. Freshman Michayla Williams shows a lot of potential. "AnnMarie is 5-foot-111/2, and Mercedyz has started a jump serve and has to be our best server," Cookie Mitchell said. "Michayla has a 24-inch vertical." CLASS 5A Can Robinson, which advanced to the region semifinals last season, parlay experience into being big winners? The Knights, who were 18-11 last season, have a new coach in Christen Garcia and a solid core of players that includes senior outside hitter Lexi Gaetner and junior twins Alex Peterson (libero) and Lauren Peterson (outside hitter), along with sophomore middle Crystal Ortiz. "I came in with the expectation of elevating the girls," said Garcia, the Holy Names JV coach last season. "Our goal is to win regionals and make it to state. "Crystal Ortiz is athletic and explosive and a true leader with the best work ethic," she added. "The Peterson twins are very critical to ball control and defense, and Lexi is one of our most powerful hitters." CLASS 4A Will Berkeley Prep, which has won three straight state titles, continue its dominance or will the graduation of key players sidetrack another Buccaneers state-title run? The Buccaneers (30-2 last season) lost superstars in hitter Jordan Burgess and setter Mackenzie Dagostino along with veteran coach Randy Dagostino, who stepped down after 28 years but stayed on as an assistant. Returning players include senior hitter Sidney Brown, who played in Italy with the USA Youth National Volleyball Team this summer and was a Tribune All-Hillsborough County first-teamer in 2011, senior middle Jessica Silva, junior middle Addison Harden and junior setter Maddie Alberdi. "Tradition is a big part of our program; it's on the back of our T-shirts," coach John Coup said. "We need to keep working hard." Jeff Davis CLASS 3A Does Tampa Prep outside hitter Katie Krueger, who has committed to Virginia Tech and was a Tribune All-Hillsborough County first-teamer in 2011, have enough help to lead the Terrapins, who were 17-11 last season, deep into postseason play? "Katie has a great work ethic and has all the tools to be a great player," Terrapins first-year coach Andrew Wilson said. "Sometimes the other players want to rely on Katie too much. We don't want her to get every ball. We want to spread the offense." Sophomore hitters Ariana Mosley and Kamryn Beach, along with junior middle Rachel Carr, are expected to play major roles. "Arianna plays very quick and has great athletic ability," Wilson said. "It's still too early to say what her best position is; and Kamryn and Rachel have great potential. Our goal is to win a state title." CLASS 2A How successful will Cambridge Christian be after losing a key member of last season's team that lost to Bayshore in the region semifinals? The Lancers were 20-9 last season but lost star middle hitter Olivia Yeager, who is a freshman starter at outside hitter for the U.S. Naval Academy. Returning players include seniors outside hitter Kristin Wolcott, middle Terrill Zentmeyer, opposite hitter Katia Cardona and setter Allie Banales, along with junior hitters Natalie Fernandez and Katie Eldridge. "We lost an extremely important player in Yeager, but … I'm optimistic about getting through the district and farther," coach Dave Wolcott said.