By Chuck Ballaro, Sun Correspondent
ENGLEWOOD — The Port Charlotte High School volleyball team looked in midseason form, Lemon Bay and North Port not so much, and Imagine has a lot of work to do, though it did show some good signs at Monday’s Preseason Classic at the Bay at Lemon Bay High School.
Six teams, including four locals with three first-year head coaches, got together for their one big preseason bash. And if one team had the right to be happy, it was the Pirates, who handily won both their matches, including the latter one with Lemon Bay, which they led wire to wire with 25-21, 25-13 victories.
First-year coach Kevin Krause said the team still needed to improve on a lot of things, but Port Charlotte certainly looked the most crisp of any team there.
“The passing was good, the setting has to get a little more consistent, and the hitting needs to get better,” Krause said. “They did well, but we can improve a lot. We’re very excited about this season.”
Laticia Nina led Port Charlotte with 12 kills, while Alicia Kowalski had eight kills and 10 digs. The Pirates had earlier beaten Sarasota Christian in straight sets.
Lemon Bay coach Pat Auer, whose team had to rally to defeat the Bradenton HEAT, a team of home-schooled players, said his team has to learn not to be so shy hitting the ball.
“All these good teams we play, if we don’t hit the ball, they’re going to kill us. I’ve been telling them that. We need to be more aggressive,” Auer said. “Port Charlotte was digging the ball all over the place and we were like “Meh.’”
Outside hitters Caroline Hill and Hannah Krzysiak shined for the Manta Rays.
Earlier, North Port and Imagine battled in the auxiliary gym, and showed the Sharks they needed to get to work on service return, among other things, as the Bobcats rolled 25-10, 25-21.
First-year coach Chassity Taylor, a former Port Charlotte standout, took advantage of the time to watch what they could do and try different things.
“We have a lot of options this year, so we got to experiment with different things. They had a lot of fun out there and I enjoyed watching them play,” said Taylor, whose team lost the second match with Sarasota Christian.
Alexis Francavilla and Lindsey Matthews had big nights for the Bobcats, particularly on serve.
In all fairness, Imagine was playing well over its class, and it did show some fortitude in the second game as the Sharks cut an 11-point deficit to two. For first-year coach Sonya Leszczynski, it was a good sign.
“If we can continue to do that, we’ll have some success. We got a little more comfortable with what they were able to do and gained some confidence,” Leszczynski said. “It’s a young team and a new coach, so there’s a lot to get used to with the system.”
Setters Kaylynn Early and McKenna Bartlett were held up for praise for Imagine, which also lost its second match to the HEAT.