Wiregrass Ranch: Already off to a 2-0 start and coming off a 17-6 season, coach Mindy Kantor has the Bulls determined to break through the districts to secure a regional tournament berth. Wiregrass boasts nine seniors and 10 returning players, all of which worked hard this offseason, including at a University of Florida team camp, where it finished ninth out of 38 teams. While the Bulls may be a top team in Pasco, their real obstacles are getting past Steinbrenner and Freedom, the two teams standing in their way to get to the next level in Class 7A-District 8.
Mitchell: The Mustangs have always had a deep, talented roster, and while they should still have that, coach Keith Paulk calls this season a rebuilding one, despite being contenders for the 6A-10 title. Mitchell does get four new opponents in its district, but Paulk, for now, is focused on replacing what he calls the “best senior class of volleyball players ever at Mitchell.”
Anclote: The Sharks may have failed to reach the regional tournament last season, but are back with a vengeance, especially after losing only one senior from 2012. This team is experienced and talented, especially after making the playoffs two seasons ago. Coach Chris Vanguard has a deep squad that is a contender in the deep 5A-8.
Fivay: The Falcons are coming off their best season, becoming region finalists for the first time in the program’s short history. First-year coach Nikki Pollack takes over for her mentor Linda McQuade, but inherits familiar and talented players, making her transition seamless. Despite losing talented seniors, such as Toni Imbimbo, the Falcons are still a top team and also a contender in the 5A-8.
Players to watch
Grace Olsen, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch: One of nine seniors, led the Bulls with 305 kills in 2012.
Teddi Wright, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch: Had a team-high 79 assists and added 100 kills and 223 digs last season.
Alyssa Mathis, Jr., Bishop McLaughlin: The 6-foot San Diego State commit will be difficult to stop, as her and the Hurricanes look to finally get past longtime district-rival Tampa Prep.
Aileen Hnatiuk, Sr., Bishop McLaughlin: Also 6-foot, she missed last year due to transfer rules, but looks to complement Mathis.
Danielle Green, Sr., Mitchell: Already leading the team in kills (28), will be one of the county’s best hitters after having 157 kills in 2012.
Mia Lockhart, Sr., Anclote: The heart and soul of the Sharks lineup has been a team contributor since a freshman and is now the team leader poised for a great season.
Aaliyah Anderson, Sr., Anclote: One of the Sharks captains who will make a dual force on the net with Lockhart.
Briannah and Ashleigh Nemetz, Sr., Fivay: The twin sisters are a athletic, dominant force on the net and an all-around talent with hitting, setting and blocking. Briannah had a team-high 286 kills last season, while Ashleigh led the team with 37 blocks.
Courtney Costa, Sr., Fivay: A top libero in the county had 483 digs last season.
Grace Markunas, Sr., River Ridge: The Royal Knights’ big hitter should lead the team in kills as the team looks to stay in contention in the deep 5A-8.
Tyra Long, Sr., Land O’ Lakes: Team-high 111 kills for a Gators team that had only two wins, but first-year coach Daniel Cunningham is optimistic about a vast improvement this season.
Rachel Gardner, Sr., Gulf: The Buccaneers top setter who can also be an offensive threat and will look to improve on last year’s 4-19 record and contend in 5A-8.
Becca Hannah, Sr., Academy at the Lakes: Will be the Wildcats big hitter up front as a complement to fellow-senior Lauren Evans, as the team looks to nab a postseason spot in 2A-7, which is only a three-team district.
Marisa Maksymkow, Sr., Hudson: This middle hitter and blocker is the returning captain for the Cobras, who look to improve on last year’s 7-15 record and contend in 4A-8 that includes Ridgewood and Trinity Catholic.
Sarah Sprague, Jr., Sunlake: This tall outside hitter will be a force on the net for the Seahawks, who, under first-year coach Deann Newton, are already turning heads as a completely revamped team.