The usual suspects once again will headline the list of top volleyball teams in Hillsborough County this season.
There is Plant High, the four-time defending state champ; Berkeley Prep, the Class 3A defending champion with 13 titles; Tampa Prep, last year's 2A runner-up and 15-time title winner; and Durant, which owns three state titles and reached the 6A final in 2007.
But there is something brewing in Riverview, where 6-foot-5 middle hitter Sarah Burrington is pulling the national spotlight toward the Sharks program.
Following last season, Burrington was named by PrepVolleyball.com as one of the top sophomores in the nation, making the website's annual Soph 79 list. She has folders upon folders in her home, stuffed with letters from dozens of college volleyball coaches. Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky and Stanford are included in the pool of schools from which she will choose.
She said she will verbally commit sometime this season.
Riverview has been to the postseason once in program history, when the Sharks reached the 4A region quarterfinals in 1999. In their first and only appearance, Riverview lost to Fort Myers Cypress Lake, 15-1, 15-3.
Burrington has high hopes for her Sharks this season.
"It's my responsibility to lead the team as far as we can go," she said. "We lost only one senior so we basically return the same team. I feel like we'll go further than last year."
Burrington led Riverview to an 11-9 record last season with 335 kills and 116 blocks. The Sharks lost to eventual district champion Armwood in the district tournament semifinals. District foe Newsome reached the 5A state final four in 2009 as a district runner-up.
"To see a local school other than Plant or Berkeley Prep go to that level in the tournament lets us know we can do it too," she said.
There are no volleyball banners hanging in the Riverview High gymnasium. Burrington hopes to change that before she graduates.
"If we went all the way to state, I would feel not only proud of myself but the entire team at Riverview," she said. "It would be a huge accomplishment. I'd be the floor captain on the first team Riverview has taken to state and hang that first banner."
Players to watch
Outside hitter, Plant, senior
ABOUT JOHNSON: The Georgetown University commit and 6-foot outside hitter had a breakout year in 2009 with 329 kills to help Plant win the 6A title and a fourth consecutive championship, earning first-team all-county honors in the process.
Outside hitter, Berkeley Prep, junior
ABOUT BURGESS: The 2009 Florida Dairy Farmers Class 3A Player of the Year led the Buccaneers to the 3A state title last season with 363 kills and 385 digs. During the summer, Burgess, a MaxPreps Preseason First-Team All-American, helped the U.S. Youth National Volleyball team win the NORCECA Girls Youth Continental Championship in Guatemala City.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH
PlayerSchoolYearPositionTina CatanachPlantSeniorOHSarah BurringtonRiverviewJuniorMHMackenzie DagostinoBerkeley PrepJuniorSetter/Opposite HitterGabby FernandezTampa PrepSeniorOHTaylor HackemackDurantJuniorSetterKristen LiguoriSteinbrennerSeniorMH/OHNatasha RowlandBerkeley PrepSeniorLiberoPaige TuttlePlantSeniorMHLindsey WatsonBrandonSeniorSetter/Outside Hitter
5 teams to watch
BERKELEY PREP: The Buccaneers enter the season ranked No. 2 in the MaxPreps Top 25 National Poll and return all but two starters from last year's 3A state title team.
DURANT: The Cougars will be led by Mississippi State commitment and junior setter Taylor Hackemack, senior outside hitter Ali Wade and senior libero Katlyn Messick.
PLANT: Four-time defending state champions return three Division I commits in Alex Johnson (Georgetown), Paige Tuttle (Troy) and Tina Catanach (Loyola-Maryland) and are ranked 15th in the country by MaxPreps.
STEINBRENNER: The Warriors return middle/opposite hitter Kristen Liguori and libero Cary Anne Bame from last year's 22-5 district championship squad.
TAMPA PREP: The Terrapins return sophomore middle hitter Katie Krueger and senior outside hitter Ericka McGriff from last year's 2A state runner-up team, and with the addition of standout outside hitter Gabby Fernandez (transferred from Bayshore Christian), could reach the state tournament again this season.