TAMPA — Fivay (8-5), a 2012 region finalist, wants not only to return to the postseason, but do so by winning the young program’s first district title.
“We lost a couple of good players, but we still have a good core of players, all of which have focus and their own talents,” said first-year coach Nikki Pollack, who was an assistant at Fivay last season. “They’ve all been working really hard to get that first district title in school history, and after that postseason run last year, those players that are now seniors, are hungry to get back.”
Those seniors, such as twins Ashleigh and Brianna Nemetz, are leading the way offensively, with 90 and 75 kills, but junior Jordyn Mattos has 26 aces. Defensively, Ashleigh Nemetz has 26 blocks and senior libero Courtney Costa has 149 digs.
“First goal is the district title, the second goal is to get back where we were last year,” Pollack said. “Once there, it’s to get even further.”
Wiregrass Ranch awaiting
Someone like Bulls senior OH Grace Olsen has been waiting four years.
See, Wiregrass’ volleyball team has never made a regional postseason berth and with the build up of talent and the oh-so-close call last season when it lost in the district semifinals, Olsen, and the rest, is ready for the wait to be over.
“It’s our goal — the one that goes to the top of the list,” said Olsen, a four-year starter. “Now, we know we can compete with these teams and we can come out on top. More than anything, this needs to be our year.”
Olsen leads the Bulls (14-4) with 196 kills and 46 aces, while Wiregrass is looking to lock up the No. 2 seed in 7A-8 behind Steinbrenner, which has already beaten the Bulls twice this season, including 3-0 on Tuesday.
After a 3-0 win at Gaither on Thursday, Wiregrass is 3-2 in district play, but still has three pivotal district matchups before the district tourney at Freedom, starting Oct. 22.
Anclote nabs first tourney win
Coach Chris Vergnaud is excited about firsts, like when the Sharks won the Orlando Volleyball Academy (OVA) Tournament on Sept. 14, thanks to the team losing one game in five matches. The Sharks (12-3) defeated West Boca Raton for the title.
“That was one of our major goals: to win our first midseason tournament,” Vergnaud said. “Another is to reach 18 wins, which we’re well on our way to and then to chase the district title, which we are definitely contenders for.”
At 3-1 in 5A-8 play, Anclote is in third behind Fivay and Sunlake with that district loss to the Falcons, but did defeat Sunlake 3-1 on Aug. 29. Though with vast improvements to teams such as the Seahawks and Land O’ Lakes (7-5) have made Vergnaud realize this district is tighter than expected. “With the talent across the board, it should be a good race to the district title,” Vergnaud said. “They’re going to have to work hard, if not even harder, in the second half of the season to continue to prove, as we have, that we’re a top contender in the county.”
Top 6 County Teams
(Records through Friday)
1. Wiregrass Ranch (14-4): Not only have the Bulls taken care of every Pasco County opponent, they’ve positioned themselves for the No. 2 seed in Class 7A-District 8, especially by beating Gaither 3-0 on Thursday.
2. Anclote (12-3): The Sharks are using experience and talent to a successful season, while losing only two games in their 12 wins.
3. Mitchell (12-4): The Mustangs have already taken a solid record in 6A- 10 play (4-0), while getting the most out of the big hitters, such as senior OH Daniele Green (136 kills).
4. Fivay (8-5): The Falcons are a well-rounded team, in which five of their eight wins are in 5A-District 8, including a 3-1 win against Anclote on Sept. 5.
5. Bishop McLaughlin (10-1): The Hurricanes have lofty goals this season, but stumbled against 3A-District 7 foe Carrollwood Day and still face the rest of their district schedule starting Tuesday hosting Seffner Christian.
6. Sunlake (7-3): The Seahawks are off to their best season in program history under first-year coach Deann Newton, already recording a program-best seven wins after having only 15 the previous six seasons.
Correspondent Mike Camunas covers prep volleyball in Pasco County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunas.