TEAMS TO WATCH
Hudson: Yes, the Cobras lost nine seniors to graduation and its coach, Shayna Munson, from its Class 4A state semifinalist team, but the three returning underclassmen and whomever else is elevated to the varsity level understands what is expected of them. The Hudson program wreaks of success. That's gotta account for something.
Land O' Lakes: This is a team that has been categorized as big and athletic. That combination will give any opponent fits. The team lost Coach Michelle Griffin, who led the team for five seasons, but get Laurie Fitzpatrick Tyszko, a former player under Linda McQuade. S Teresa Della Penna, S Morgan Crescent, MH Nicole Woodard, MB Kendra Sheets and DS Julia Della Penna will be key in helping the Gators move in the right direction.
Mitchell: Always a team in the mix, the Mustangs return kills leader Devan Dampier, as well as a group who can swat the ball around with some ferocity in Jessica Hester and Devan Felts. Autumn Davis will add athleticism to the setter's position as well as the ability to hit. Meanwhile Lyndsey Lane will add solid defense.
River Ridge: The Royal Knights suffered through a tedious season after going 12-12 with a young group of players. That youth has been seasoned for a full year and is expected to be a much more aggressive squad on offensive attacks as well as on defense. Helping that defense will be seniors Audrey Abell (DS), Chelsea Babcock (MH) and Danielle Lombari (S). Vashoula Kostagiannes, a captain along with Lombardi and sophomore Sarah Olin (OH) will play key roles as well.
Wiregrass Ranch: Entering her fourth season coaching the Bulls, Mindy Kantor has never seen a group of volleyball players at the school gel like this one has. This group will benefit from a heavy dose of senior leadership. When the team hits the court, four of the six players will be seniors.
Zephyrhills: Although the Bulldogs lost three solid starters from last season, the bunch may prove to be capable of pulling their own weight. There are eight juniors who have played together for the last three years. They've also tasted success on the junior varsity level. Coach Dan Muir hopes that will translate to varsity victories.
This season brings with it a new crop of coaches as well as a new program. There are five new faces to the coaching ranks, while a familiar mug takes over a fledgling program.
Stephanie Turner, Academy at the Lakes: This former collegiate player will take the reigns of a program that could be on the cusp of turning the corner. Although she views the team as young, there are three seniors, who will play big roles in an attempt to better the Wildcats' 8-8 2009 campaign.
Linda McQuade, Fivay: She's the familiar one. McQuade left Hudson after coaching the team for 19 seasons. In that time, she racked up a 406-117 record, which includes 10 district titles and eight Sunshine Athletic Conference titles. Don't be shocked if the Falcons surprise some teams.
Belinda Delaney, Gulf: Of the three coaches on the Gulf staff, three are new, including Delaney. Despite that newness, Delaney says everyone has been receptive to each other and are poised to make this a season in which a solid foundation is laid.
Kortney Newton, Hudson: Newton isn't exactly new to the area as she was a standout athlete at Gulf. She was an assistant at Gulf last season before taking over the Hudson job from Shayna Munson, who led the Cobras to the Class 4A state semifinals. She'll have her hands full as the program lost nine seniors to graduation.
Laurie Fitzpatrick Tyszko, Land O' Lakes: The former Hudson player takes over a Gator squad that tested teams late in the season, but eventually tailed off in the district tournament. She'll get a group that has serious potential to surpass last season's 11-9 record.
Amy Thompson, Wesley Chapel: For the bulk of the summer, it appeared Thompson would be an assistant, helping to run a program. After former coach Amy Seidl returned to her home state of Michigan for a teaching job, the program is all Thompson's - at least on an interim basis. Athletic Director Steve Mumaw hopes to make it permanent.
In any sport, there's a team that seems to blossom out of nowhere to turn heads and earn wins. We all know it's not over night success that does it - it's more like plenty of hard work. Here are the teams in Pasco County which may open some eyes.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON ...
The Pasco County volleyball scene has a decent amount of talent to say the least. Here are a handful of players you should look out for as the season progresses:
DS Audrey Abell, Sr., River Ridge: From her back row position, Abell will be a leader for the Royal Knights defense.
OH Alexis Atkinson, Sr., Sunlake: She will step in as the team's main hitter throughout the season.
OH Sara Blank, Sr., Ridgewood: She is one who will play a strong role in the Rams' offense this season.
S Morgan Crescent, Sr., Land O' Lakes: She can do great things with her jump serve and she has a presence on the court.
OH Taylor Crosse, Jr., Anclote: She was a key cog for a fledgling Anclote squad last season, winning the team's MVP. She will be expected to keep up that pace during the team's second season.
DS Julia Della Penna, Sr., Land O' Lakes: Her passes from the back row will give the Gators a good start to their attack.
OH/M Jessica Johnson, Jr., Bishop McLaughlin: Will be a force on the outside with her high reach and steady passing.
MH Adele Lashley, Sr., Wesley Chapel: Labeled as "fierce" by her coach, Lashley can deliver on serves, blocks and attacks.
S Danielle Lombari, Sr., River Ridge: In this two-setter offense, Lombardi will relied upon to deliver the perfect passes. The senior captain is a third-year varsity player.
L Ellen Toneff, Sr., Wiregrass: She'll be a player who can contribute all over the court for the Bulls. She's also a four-year varsity player.
S Lucy Vega, Sr., Gulf: She has thus far stepped up her court presence in both hitting and setting. She also has great command of the court.
MH Lauren Vanker, Sr., Ridgewood: Vanker missed a portion of last season, but when she returned, it seemed to spark the Rams. The All-SAC pick led the team in blocks.
MH/MB Chelsea Violenes, Sr. Wiregrass: She will be looked upon contribute from her front row position as one of two fourth-year varsity players.
MH Nicole Woodard, Sr., Land O' Lakes: She's very aggressive at the net, blocking and killing.
OH/M Sarki Worrles, So., Bishop McLaughlin: The best athlete the program has ever had. With work, she can play anywhere.
FACES IN THE CROWD
Here are the remaining teams in Pasco County looking for postseason glory.
Academy at the Lakes
Coach: Stephanie Turner (first season)
Key players: OH Taylor Andreychuk, Sr., S Alexis Holler, Jr., S Mary Power, Jr., L Kallie Shiring, Sr., MH Maria Vail, Sr.
Coach: Chris Vergnaud (second)
Key players: OH Taylor Crosse, Jr., DS Tiara Crosse, Sr., S Alexis Garcia, So.
Coach: Doug Chinchar (second)
Key players: S/RS Kelley Hill, Jr., OH/M Jessica Johnson, Jr., OH/M Sarki Worrles, So.
Coach: Linda McQuade (first)
Key players: OH Jackie Cosh, So., S Courtney Costa, Fr., MH Kamber DeWitt, So., OH Toni Imbimbo, So., MH Ashley St. Louis, Jr., L Hunter Winters, So.
Coach: Belinda Delaney (first)
Key players: MB Lea Burbridge, Jr., MH Leighlani Paselio, Jr., L Alyssa Skelton, Sr., S Lucy Vega, Sr.
Coach: Amber Starkey (seventh)
Key players: OH Sarah Blank, Sr., S Lauren Gonzalez, So., MH Lauren Vanker, Sr.
Coach: Aixa Crespo (fourth)
Key players: OH Alexis Atkinson, Sr., L Meghan Durbin, Jr., MH/MB Madelyn Frane, Jr.
Coach: Amy Thompson (first)
Key players: MH Adele Lashley, Sr., S Hannah Mitchell, Jr.