VOLLEYBALL PREVIEW: Graduated seniors open doors for newcomers

By Dawn Klemish, Sun Correspondent
Last season was one of the strongest in the area in terms of talent and experience, so teams likely will feel the sting of graduation early in 2016.
This season also saw the addition of two new area coaches to the mix, Lemon Bay’s Pat Auer and North Port’s Adrienne Moreno, so early predictions run the gamut of where teams will be, come season’s end.
Staff and student departures aside, early indicators of possible success have been how soon teams can get newcomers up to speed, how well the old meshes with the new, and how responsive they are to the coaches. That being said, this season should be one of growth, learning and surprises for four area teams.
Charlotte was probably hit hardest by departures, losing six (five starters) from its 2015 regional runner-up team that lost just three matches all season. The Tarpons will benefit, though, from a handful of hard workers that understand coach Michelle Dill’s system and are eager to share with newcomers.
Lemon Bay lost four from last season’s squad, each of them major contributors and team leaders — and are also under a new coach — so the Manta Rays have some holes to fill as well. With six returning seniors and a group of talented underclassmen,
Lemon Bay might start slow but gain momentum as soon as the youngsters become acclimated.
Port Charlotte lost just three seniors, but the trio was crucial to leadership both on and off the court. The Pirates have always hung their hat on fighting for every point, though, so their enthusiasm should carry them as a set of newcomers mingle with the returners early on.
North Port is the lone area team not competing in District 7A-10, but in the three-team 8A-12 instead. This will come in handy at the postseason, as the Bobcats need a single win at distrcits to advance to regional play. In the meantime, North Port lost a duo of important athletes, but returns a ton of talent to the floor that should be hungry to show opponents how they have grown.
CHARLOTTE
Coach: Michelle Dill
District: 7A-10, with Cape Coral, Ida Baker, Island Coast, Lemon Bay, North Fort Myers and Port Charlotte
Last year: 26-3, lost to Fort Myers in regional final

Lost to graduation: Megan McGill, Brooke Jacobs, Mykelli Taylor, Maddie Foley, Jessie Valerius, Hayley Whitehead
Top returners: Jessica Moore, Sr. S; Kaylee Brannon, Sr. L; Michelle Bunch, Sr. MH; Emily Vaughn, Jr. RSH; Shelby Beisner, So. OH

Newcomers: Skylar Gribbon, So. OH; Kaitlyn Chevarria, So. MH
Team strength: The Tarpons’ strength has always been their athleticism and this season is no different. Charlotte has a lot of height and girls who can jump out of the gym to go with it, and if the younger girls can assimilate, the team will go far.
LEMON BAY
Coach: Pat Auer
District: 7A-10, with Charlotte, Cape Coral, Ida Baker, Island Coast, North Fort Myers and Port Charlotte

Last year: 15-15, lost to North Fort Myers in district semifinal
Lost to graduation: Jessie LeClerc, Ocee Flowers, Michelle Fetzer, Jackie LaMarr
Top returners: Ryan Carley, Sr. S; Aimee Holt, Sr. DS/OH; Hayley Layne, Sr. OH; Breanna Nelson, Sr. OH/S; Kacee Nelson, Sr. DS; Emily Schulte, Sr. DS; Francesca Gallucci, Jr. MH; Madison Taylor, Jr. S; Caroline Hill, So. MH
Newcomers: Lauren Maheu, Jr. OH/S; Skylar Goddard, Jr. DS; Hannah Krzysiak, Fr. OH; Maggie Poulakis, Fr. M

Team strength: The Manta Rays have a ton of height this season, especially in the middle. Lemon Bay’s strength lies in its young but experienced net players, who should combine with a seasoned back row to make waves in the district.

NORTH PORT
Coach: Adrienne Moreno
District: 8A-12, with Gulf Coast and Riverdale
Last year: 14-10, lost to Riverdale in district semifinal

Lost to graduation: Kylie Bell, Allie Moreno

Top returners: Sam Tennant, Sr. OH; Mindsey Matthews, Jr. OH; Alexis Francavilla, Jr. OH; Maddie Powers, Jr. DS; Sydney Hoggarth, So. S; Michaela Magnapera, Sr. OH; Raychel Sipe, Sr. L; Summer Fisher, Sr. MH, Lindsey Miller, Sr. OH
Newcomers: Lily Perez, So. DS; Abigail Hutchinson, Fr. MH; Brook Kelly, So. S/DS
Team strength: The Bobcats are one of the few teams not to lose a gob of players this season, so their strength should be a group of starters that each have at least two varsity seasons under their belt. That, coupled with height and a strong defense could catapult North Port farther in the postseason waters than it has been in a while.
PORT CHARLOTTE
Coach: Christine Burkhart

District: Charlotte, Cape Coral, Ida Baker, Island Coast, Lemon Bay and North Fort Myers

Last year: 7-19, lost to Charlotte in district semifinal

Lost to graduation: Delaney Gerofsky, Sabrina Fultz, Tawnie Simpson

Top returners: Nicole Nava, Sr. OH; Celia Baermann, Jr. MB/OH; Kaelyn Griffiths, Jr. Util; Jordan Jensen, Sr. Util
Newcomers: Kiersten Tisdale, Fr. OH; Zoe Burkhart, Fr. L; Sam DiBene, Fr. MB

Team strength: Port Charlotte is a scrappy team that will make the most of what it has. While the young Pirates scramble to get their feet beneath them early on, the girls’ never-give-up attitudes will carry them through battle.

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