Who will serve the next ace in the 2022 Florida high school volleyball season? Throughout the area, there is an influx of skilled volleyball players hitting the court for their high school teams this season.
Last season was one to remember for many teams, and one to grow on for some others. Although we are a couple weeks away from the start of the season, here are your way too early volleyball rankings for this season:
1. Venice: The Lady Indians’ dominance on the court reigned supreme last season, as they posted a 22-8 record. On top of that, they added to their banner, winning their 20th consecutive district title.
Competiing in the Class 7A, the Lady Indians lost in the regional finals to Plant, which went on to win the state championship.
The Lady Indians lost four seniors after last season, but will receive an influx of talent from the squad’s junior varsity team, which posted an undefeated record last season. Some key players to look out for this season are libero Brighton Ferguson, and middle hitter Leah Bartlett. Last season, Bartlett posted 274 total kills, and had an 0.339 hitting percentage. In addition, Ferguson posted 39 serving aces, and 318 digs last season. With this team’s extreme talent this squad looks to continue its dominance on the court.
2. Lemon Bay: Last season was one to remember for the Manta Rays. Not only did the team finish the season with a 26-3 record, but they posted the highest winning percentage and fewest losses in school history. The last time the Manta Rays’ won 20 or more matches was in 2007, when they posted a 21-4 record.
The Manta Rays won the District 4A-8 tournament, defeating Port Charlotte, 3-0, in the finals. The team also reached the Class 4A regional finals before falling to Academy of the Holy Names.
This season, the Manta Rays’ key players will be outside hitter Ocean Roth and middle hitter Taylor Orris. Last season, Roth recorded 200 total kills alongside Orris who led the team with 57 total blocks. After a historic 2021-2022 season, the Manta Rays have created a foundation that will propel their team into this season.
3. Charlotte: Last season, the Tarpons finished with a 19-9 record, which is the team’s best finish since 2018-2019 when they posted a 24-6 mark.
Throughout the season, the Tarpons went on two winning streaks of at least three matches. The Tarpons won five consecutive matches from Sept. 27-Oct. 11. During that streak, the Tarpons won 15 straight sets. In addition to the Tarpons’ regular season success, the team won the District 5A-11 championship, defeating Cape Coral, 3-0.
While the Tarpons’ season ended in the Class 5A regional semifinals, it was a season to remember.
4. Imagine: The Lady Sharks finished last season with a 14-12 record. Their season came to an end in the District 3A-7 semifinal against Out-of Door Academy, 3-1.
While the Lady Sharks recorded their fewest wins in the past three seasons, last year was historic for another reason. Lady Shark middle hitter Serena Kohler, who recorded over 1,000 career kills and was a key piece on the team for many years, made history becoming Imagine’s first-ever Division I signee in any sport. With a new season on the horizon, the Lady Sharks have a new head coach, Sarah Haggart. She will work with two key returning players, Tyler Evans and Summer Kohler.
5. Port Charlotte: In the Pirates’ first season under head coach Julie White, the team had an 8-16 overall record. Based on record alone, this was the Pirates’ worst season since 2016-2017, when the team posted a 4-17 mark.
Despite the Pirates’ record, the team did excel in the postseason, reaching the District 4A-8 finals, where they lost to Lemon Bay. The season came to an end the following week with a defeat against Weeki Wachee in the regiona quarterfinals.
With the loss of seven seniors from last year’s squad, the Pirates may have many new faces on the court this year.
6. DeSoto County: The Bulldogs are a very consistent volleyball team. Last season, the Bulldogs finished the season with a 12-15 record, and reached the District 4A-7 tournament finals.
In the past four seasons, the Bulldogs have posted 12 overall wins in three of them, the only exception being in 2019-2020 when the team went 13-12.
While injuries deeply affected the Bulldogs last season, the team did reach the region quarterfinals.
This season, the Bulldogs return players such as outside hitter-libero Brooke Zolkos and defensive specialist-libero Caroline Walker. Last season, Zolkos led the team in many categories, posting 275 total digs, 345 assists, and 301 total kills. Walker led the Bulldogs’ last season with 78 aces. With consistent play over the past four seasons, the Bulldogs have the potential this year to break the mold.
7. North Port: Last season, the Bobcats posted a 6-18 record, and were bounced from the District 7A-8 in the first round.
North Port lost four seniors. One senior, Kristin Rhoads, was a key player for this squad. Rhoads led the district with 65 total blocks, and a 0.403 hitting percentage. With the loss of those four seniors, this year’s Bobcat squad under first-year head coach Jennica Thomas will be filled with young talent.