Player of the Year: OH Sidney Brown, Sr., Berkeley Prep
Two years ago, Sidney Brown admits she simply just went through the motions in her first season playing at Berkeley Prep, the Tampa Bay area’s volleyball dynasty.
The Bucs then boasted the powerhouse duo of seniors Jordan Burgess and Mackenzie Dagostino, who are now Division I athletes.
Brown, then a sophomore, still posted 346 kills that year, second most on the team. But at times she felt she was just along for the ride.
“You kind of just went and you did your thing and you didn’t think about it,” Brown said. “The hardest thing when you lose players like that and people who you can rely on is learning to do it yourself.”
And that’s exactly what Brown said she has spent the past two seasons doing.
This is Brown’s second season as the Tampa Bay Times’ Suncoast Player of the Year, selected from among the top players in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties. She was the obvious pick after recording 446 kills and leading the Bucs to the state semifinals.
The Stanford commit’s game might be the best in area, but it’s Brown’s willingness to learn that most impresses Berkeley Prep coach John Coup.
Just this season, Coup said, Brown has tweaked her skills, improving her swing and learning to hit the ball from a higher spot, making her a more dangerous attacker.
“She’s just becoming this player you’re never going to be comfortable defending because she’s able to do a lot more, which has developed in the past two or three months,” Coup said.
Now that her three seasons at Berkeley Prep have come to an end, Brown said she hopes she’s instilled the same values in her younger teammates.
She knows what it’s like to lean on the talents of teammates, much like Brown’s fellow Bucs have done as she has fueled Berkeley Prep and kept its volleyball program in the limelight where it has been for decades.
But now, just as the torch was passed to her two years ago, it’s Brown’s turn to hand it off once more.
“I hope that I can leave behind that knowledge and that will to win,” Brown said, “just like (Mackenzie and Jordan) did for me.”
Coach of the year
Laura Stegenga, Steinbrenner
In her second season coaching the Warriors, Stegenga led the young team to its fifth straight district title, one for each year the school has been open. Steinbrenner continued to excel in the playoffs, not dropping a single set until the state semifinals against Gulf Coast, one Steinbrenner eventually lost 3-2. Steinbrenner made it to its first final four by beating Hillsborough County rival Durant, which was then 26-0.
MH Naomi Mack, Sr., Palm Harbor University: When Mack was at the net she was dangerous as both a hitter and a blocker. She had 282 kills and 138 blocks to lead a very good Hurricanes team.
MB Ashleigh Nemetz, Sr., Fivay: The Falcons battled their way to the 5A region finals with the Nemetz sisters at the helm. Ashleigh had 272 kills and 67 blocks.
OH Shea Hamilton, Jr., Clearwater Central Catholic: The Pinellas County player of the year, Hamilton was very athletic on both the front and back lines. She had 280 kills and 312 digs.
OH Daniele Green, Sr., Mitchell: The North Suncoast player of the year’s 327 kills carried the Mustangs to the 6A region finals after a season of perfect district play. She was a powerful force all over the court, with an additional 347 digs, 56 aces and 30 blocks.
OH Karissa Rhoades, Jr., Bloomingdale: Rhoades, a member of the 2012 all-Suncoast second team as a sophomore, led all Hillsborough County players in kills with 457 and team-high totals in digs (288), blocks (42) and service aces (65).
OH, Alyssa Mathis, Jr., Bishop McLaughlin: The San Diego State commit was a core piece of a Hurricanes’ team with a 13-3 record, the best in school history. Mathis averaged 5.3 kills per game.
OH Samantha Reeves, Sr., Clearwater: Dominant at the net, the 6-foot-2 Reeves is the kind of player who drives the ball straight down. She had 342 kills and 69 blocks.
OH Lexi Thompson, Sr., Durant: Thompson, an Ole Miss commit, helped lead Durant to a 26-0 season before the Cougars fell to Steinbrenner in the playoffs. Thompson set a school record in kills with 263.
OH Corey Perkins, Jr., Tampa Prep
S Maddie Alberdi, Sr., Berkeley Prep
S Hayley Misewich, Sr., Osceola
MH Katie Moore, Jr., Clearwater Central Catholic
MB Lauren Heldt, Jr., Steinbrenner
MH Aaliyah Anderson, Sr., Anclote
OH Briannah Nemetz, Sr., Fivay
OH Victoria Trueheart, Jr., Tampa Bay HEAT
Academy of the Holy Names: Courtney Vogler
Anclote: Marissa Niedermeyer, Mia Lockhart, Elaina Garcia
Berkeley Prep: Addison Harden, Logan Weldon
Bishop McLaughlin: Aileen Hnatiuk
Carrollwood Day: Aisling Sheehan
Clearwater Central Catholic: Jenna Dykstra, Maria Jose Amundaray
Clearwater: Allie Russell, Haley Barrett
Fivay: Jordyn Mattos, Amber Lake
Indian Rocks Christian: Monique Oliver
Land O’Lakes: Tyra Long
Mitchell: Kayla Widera
Northeast: Brittany Taksas
Northside Christian: Megan Tozour
Osceola: Emily Barton
Palm Harbor University: Jazmine Barker, Ameije Ismaili
Plant City: Noelle Dietrich
Plant: Kaitlyn Sibson
Robinson: Kylee Gorngpratum
St. Petersburg: Casey Houlton
Seminole: Samantha Schlesman
Steinbrenner: Avery Bradshaw, Brooke Royals
Strawberry Crest: Terra Brooks
Sunlake: Sarah Sprague
Wiregrass Ranch: Grace Olsen, Izah Deang, Teddi Wright
Staff writers Mary Kenney and Rodney Page contributed to this report.