Winter Haven Bartow Volleyball 12

Fort Meade’s girls varsity volleyball team went mining for district treasure last week and struck gold.

Proudly hailed on Fort Meade High School’s Twitter account as the program’s first-ever district championship, the Miners made the long trip north to Crescent City and defeated the host Raiders in five games on Thursday, Oct. 17, for the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Class 1A, District 8 title.

Fort Meade now returns home Thursday, Oct. 24, to play District 7 runner-up Williston in the Region 4 semifinals, starting at 6 p.m.

Williston, located approximately 25 miles northwest of Ocala, had the second-best Region 4 power rating (behind District 7 champion Newberry) when the FHSAA released updated girls volleyball rankings on Sunday, Oct. 20. Fort Meade’s rating put the Miners fifth in the region.

The Region 4 final is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 29, and will match the Fort Meade-Williston winner against Newberry or Crescent City.

The Winter Haven Blue Devils and All Saints Academy Saints joined Fort Meade as area teams headed to FHSAA regional tournaments.

With the exception of Class 1A, regional qualifiers this season include district champions as well as at-large schools based on their Florida MaxPreps power rating once district tournaments were completed. Winter Haven and All Saints’ Academy both fit into the latter category.

Winter Haven earned a spot in the Class 6A, Region 3 quarterfinals as an at-large qualifier. The Blue Devils are the No. 7 seed (12.246 rating) and will face a familiar opponent in No. 2 seed and host St. Cloud on Thursday night.

The Blue Devils opened 6A-10 district play with a 25-14, 25-17, 25-10 win over No. 6 seed Liberty on Oct. 14 as Carissa Michel led a balanced attack with seven kills and Meagan Ricks had six total blocks. Winter Haven advanced to play No. 2 seed Viera – which also made the Region 3 tournament as an at-large qualifier – in the district semifinals the next day and the result was a 25-23, 15-25, 12-25, 16-25 setback.

St. Cloud, the 6A-10 champion, defeated Winter Haven twice during the regular season and that included a matchup at the Bulldogs’ invitational tournament in September. Thursday’s winner advances to the regional semifinals on Oct. 29 against No. 3 seed Bloomingdale or No. 6 seed George Jenkins.

All Saints Academy is the No. 5 seed for the Class 2A, Region 2 tournament. The Saints, who were the region’s top at-large qualifier with a 3.743 rating, visit No. 4 seed Palm Bay Covenant Christian on Thursday.

The Saints reached the semifinals of the Class 2A, District 6 tournament last week, but the result was a four-game loss (13-25, 23-25, 25-23, 12-25) to eventual district champion Foundation Academy. ASA is in the top half of the Region 2 bracket and, with a win Thursday, would play top-seeded Geneva or No. 8 seed International Community School in the semifinals on Oct. 29.

Haines City (Class 7A), Bartow (Class 6A), Lake Wales (Class 5A), Lake Region (Class 5A), Auburndale (Class 5A) and Frostproof (Class 3A) had their respective seasons end last week in district play.

Fifth-seeded Haines City dropped a 14-25, 23-25, 20-25 decision to rival Ridge Community in the opening round of the Class 7A, District 6 tournament, while No. 5 seed Plant City ousted No. 4 seed Bartow in the first round of the Class 6A, District 11 tourney despite the Yellow Jackets winning the opening two games.

Fifth-seeded Lake Region recorded a 27-25, 27-25, 12-25, 25-9 victory over fourth-seeded Lake Wales in the opening round of the Class 5A, District 10 tournament, only to drop a 3-0 semifinal decision to eventual district champion Lake Gibson.

Auburndale was the No. 3 seed in 5A-10 where it fell in four games to semifinal opponent and No. 2 seed Pasco. The Bloodhounds earned a 3-0 victory over No. 6 seed Zephyrhills in the first round.

Frostproof was the No. 2 seed in Class 3A, District 9, but the Bulldogs lost 3-0 in the semifinals to third-seeded Santa Fe Catholic.

Elsewhere, the Central Florida Athletic Conference Tournament gets underway this week where Winter Haven Christian (which won 13 consecutive matches this season from Sept. 12 through Oct. 15) is the defending champion after defeating Oasis Christian Academy in four games for the 2018 varsity title.

Polk State men’s hoops ranked No. 9, will host Red Night Madness

The Polk State Eagles rank No. 9 in the NJCAA Region 8 Men's Basketball Preseason Coaches' Poll, breaking into the top-10 for the first time in head coach Brandon Giles's tenure.

"It definitely is a boost for our program," Giles said.

According to a release, more than 50 Division I and II schools have been on campus during the past month to evaluate the team’s players, suggesting the Eagles will have a deep and talented roster this season.

Last year's team went 12-2 at home but struggled on the road, where it had a 2-15 record.

The Eagles hold their third annual Red Night Madness pep rally Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. in Winter Haven. The event is open to the public and admission is free.

The team starts the season Nov. 1 with a 6 p.m. game against Advance Prep Academy in Winter Haven.

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Editor Steven Ryzewski contributed to this report.

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