Volleyball and swimming head into their final action of the regular season during a busy week in area prep sports.
Headlining the week is Venice’s visit to Lemon Bay’s volleyball court, a meeting that is both long and short in coming. The Mantas’ breakout season continued over the weekend with two dominant wins over Port Charlotte and Naples to improve to 20-1 on the season.
Now comes Venice in a match that was hastily arranged two weeks ago as both teams try to get in as much action as possible before their respective district tournaments.
Lemon Bay has been touting the matchup daily on its social media accounts, calling in “The Battle of the Bay” but there’s no mistaking the potential mismatch on paper.
Venice (15-7) is the state’s No. 21-ranked team (though updated rankings will be released later today). Lemon Bay checks in at No. 61. While the Indians have been playing their typical, brutal schedule, Lemon Bay’s overall schedule strength has been ordinary and the Mantas’ lone loss was against the only team on their slate to be ranked ahead of them. That team, No. 40 Canterbury, blasted the Mantas 25-11, 25-18 at a tournament in Estero last month, handing Lemon Bay half of their four set losses this season.
In all, the match serves a two-fold purpose for Lemon Bay coach Pat Auer — it provides some excitement for the players and the fanbase as the season enters its home stretch and win or lose, it hardens the Mantas for the playoff road that awaits.
On to the week ahead:
We just talked about the day’s big event, but Charlotte volleyball is also getting an early start on its final week, traveling to Evangelical Christian.
There is more to Lemon Bay’s week than Venice. This day features something of a grudge match when Lemon Bay visits Imagine. The Sharks lost a pair of players to Lemon Bay in the offseason. North Port is also in action, heading to South Fort Myers.
It is also a busy golf day as Charlotte’s girls play host to Island Coast and Lemon Bay’s girls travel to Braden River. On the boys’ side Port Charlotte travels to North Port while DeSoto County hits the road to Lake Placid. DeSoto County’s cross country team will also hit the road to rival Hardee.
Venice volleyball will welcome Vanguard to town for a rematch of Venice’s 3-0 win in Ocala on Sept. 7. Injury-riddled Port Charlotte will face a stiff challenge at Lakewood Ranch.
Charlotte’s boys golf team will travel to Lemon Bay.
One last, big volleyball push to close out the regular season sees Venice sort of ending the regular season as it began. The Indians will play host to Forest, a team it defeated 3-1 in Ocala in the season’s first week. Meanwhile Lemon Bay will face its second top-35 team of the week when it plays host to No. 31 Bradenton Christian, a team expected to vie for the Class 2A state championship. Charlotte gets in on the big-time opponents, too, welcoming No. 50 First Baptist to town. Port Charlotte will close out its regular season at Imagine.
DeSoto County and Hardee will tee off in a boys golf match in Wauchula.
Oh, yeah, it’s another football Friday night, with five of the area’s six teams in action. Venice should empty the bench against visiting Gulf Coast. Charlotte will look to get right at Cape Coral. Lemon Bay begins the most-difficult three-game stretch of its season with a trip to Lake Placid. North Port will have to figure out how to keep up with 5-star running back Richard Young when Lehigh rolls into town while DeSoto County stays on the road to face a first-year Davenport program.
Also happening, Lemon Bay will play host to the girls’ version of the annual Charlotte County Meet.
A bit of a be-there-or-be-square day for swimming and cross country as most of the area schools will be heading Selby Aquatic for the Tri-County Championships swim meet and Apalachee Regional Park for the epic FSU cross country invitational.