VOLLEYBALL: Newcomers change the course for Pirates

By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports

PORT CHARLOTTE — You don’t often see a turnaround quite as remarkable as the one accomplished by the Port Charlotte volleyball team this season.

The Pirates were a six-win team in 2016, and with an incredible combination of factors, they’ve improved to 21-3 this year on the way to a No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in today’s District 7A-10 tournament.

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CHARLOTTE
District: 7A-10
Seed: No. 2
Record in district: 5-1
First match: Today vs. Island Coast, 7 p.m.
Outlook: The Tarpons don’t care about regular season results. They don’t care they’re the No. 2 seed. They don’t care about our projections. Charlotte wants another district championship, and will likely get a shot to play for one. A Tarpon vs. Pirate title match is impending, and don’t expect them to get swept like they did last time they faced their rivals.
LEMON BAY
District: 7A-10
Seed: No. 4
Record in district: 3-3
First match: Today vs. Ida Baker, 7 p.m.
Outlook: It’s been a while since the Manta Rays’ five-set thrilling victory over the Bulldogs on Aug. 29. As Lemon Bay continued to improve on the season, they’ve been able to rely on more players to step up and come through in clutch situations. While they likely have their eye on getting a crack at Port Charlotte, they’ll have a tough test to start the tournament.
PORT CHARLOTTE
District: 7A-10
Seed: No. 1
Record in district: 6-0
First match: Tuesday vs. Lemon Bay/Ida Baker winner, 7 p.m.
Outlook: From the No. 5 seed last season to No. 1 this time around, the Pirates now have a target on their backs. On a fairly young team, most of the players haven’t been in a position where they’re now expected to win. They’ll enjoy a first-round bye before likely playing Lemon Bay on Tuesday, a team they’ve already defeated three times this season.
NORTH PORT
District: 8A-12
Seed: No. 3
Record in district: 0-2
First match: Tuesday at Riverdale, 7 p.m.
Outlook: The Bobcats have struggled this season, but there’s no doubt they have improved as the year progressed. They’re playing their best volleyball now, which is really all you can ask for out of a team in rebuilding mode. In a three-team district, if North Port can steal a win on Tuesday, they get an automatic berth to regionals.

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