The fall sports season began two months ago, and it’s already becoming apparent who will be worth watching in the coming weeks.
The postseason is here next week for sports such as volleyball and swimming while cross country and golf wait a week, and football begins regional playoffs in mid November.
Everyone — except in football — will make it into the opening rounds in the coming days and weeks, but not everyone will last long after that.
Here’s who will be worth following it turns into elimination time:
Volleyball (Postseason begins MONDAY)
The area’s best teams squared off earlier this week when Venice traveled to Lemon Bay and beat the Mantas, 3-1, in a hard-fought and competitive match.
Though the Indians (16-7, No. 23 in FL) won bragging rights this week, that won’t matter when the playoffs begin on Monday.
Venice has earned the No. 1 seed in its district and a free trip to the district semifinals Tuesday — against the winner of No. 4 Riverview and No. 5 Sarasota on Monday.
A win will put the Indians in the district championship match against a to-be-determined opponent.
Led by hitters Paden Keller, Leah Bartlett and Charley Goberville on offense, with three-year starter Ashley Reynolds setting and sisters Ireland and Brighton Ferguson on defense, the Indians are undefeated in district play this season.
Lemon Bay (21-2, No. 69 in FL) is also the No. 1 seed of its district — earning a first-round bye and spot in the district semifinals on Oct. 19 against the winner of No. 4 LaBelle and No. 5 Clewiston.
Win that, and the Mantas will play the winner of No. 2 Port Charlotte vs. No. 3 Bonita Springs for the district title on Thursday.
The Mantas have been led by a diverse attack at the net with over 120 kills each from Gabriela Crespo, Presley Engelauf, Ocean Roth and Taylor Orris, along with Kendall Steinert setting and Brooke Andrews and Riley Thibideau on defense.
Swimming and Diving (Postseason begins MONDAY)
Charlotte is looking to feature some of the best swimmers in the area once again.
The Tarpons handily defeated Lemon Bay and Port Charlotte to win the County Championship last week led by event winners such as Zoe Schwartz, James Rose, Celina Myers, Charlie Plaisted and Megan Morales.
Boys and Girls Golf (Postseason begins Oct. 25)
It’ll be a tough climb for any of our area teams to make it to the state championships, but there should be several standouts along the way.
The Venice boys have a deep group of players who shoot in the 30’s including Chapin Smith, Marcus Keck, John Piroli, Anthony Lohbauer and Harrison Adams while the girls team has a pair of players who hover in the high-70’s to low-80’s in Elizabeth Ireland and Hayli Snaer.
Port Charlotte and North Port, meanwhile, are each led by a strong No. 1 in Eddie Lainhart and CJ Kemble, respectively.
Lainhart has been a top golfer for the Pirates for three straight years while Kemble set the Bobcats individual and team scoring records earlier this year, firing a 4-under 32.
Though the Lemon Bay boys don’t have a far-and-away No. 1 golfer, their squad of Bryce Noll, Charlie Dillmore, Brent Walker and Jacob Storm can compete with anyone.
Boys and Girls Cross Country (Postseason begins Oct. 25)
The Bobcats and Tarpons have both stood out with strong finishes this season — finishing first and second, respectively, at the North Port Individual earlier this year.
Despite losing several top runners to graduation, North Port has returned Teage Elsey and Evan Crane while adding Jeremy Duque on the boys’ side while bringing back Brenda Smith, among others, on the girls’ side.
Charlotte has been powered by top runners like James Stock and Caden Klossner on the boys’ side and experienced returner Hanna Martin on the girls’ team.
Venice, despite not having top team finishes, is led by a pair of promising runners — Brian Williams for the boys and Juliana Courville on the girls’ team.
Local district meets will be held (for Venice and North Port) at North Port High and (for Port Charlotte and Lemon Bay) at Lemon Bay High on the morning of Oct. 30 while Charlotte will compete at Estero on the morning of Oct. 28.
Football (Regional playoffs begin Nov. 12)
There’s still several games to be played and district battles to sort out, but the playoff contenders are making themselves clear.
Venice (6-0, No. 6 in FL) has ran through most of its opponents with a complete team and needs wins against Gulf Coast and Riverview to seal the district title and home field advantage to open the regional playoffs.
Lemon Bay (5-0, No. 105 in FL) has also steamrolled its competition, allowing just 12 points all season while putting a running clock on each team it’s faced.
The Mantas — with no districts in 4A competition — are currently ranked third in their region behind Lakewood and Clewiston.
Port Charlotte (3-3, No. 284 in FL) has been on the wrong side of some close games, and has paid the price in the standings, but the district is still up for grabs.
The Pirates have already beaten Booker and if they can win against Hardee and Sebring in the coming weeks, they’ll earn an automatic trip to the playoffs.
If Charlotte (3-2, No. 169 in FL) wants to make it past the regular season, it might need some help. The Tarpons are trailing Dunbar in the race for the district title and are losing opportunities to make up the ground.
If that doesn’t happen, the Tarpons must receive one of four at-large bids in their region. Currently, the team is ranked fifth among non-district winners in the region — behind South Fort Myers, Fort Myers, Belen Jesuit and Plantation.