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Pinellas: District volleyball preview

Tarpon Springs’ roster is sister-heavy with, from left to right, freshman Kelsi Collins playing with senior Karli. and sophomore Ashlyn MacGregor playing with senior Micah.

Special to the Times

Tarpon Springs’ roster is sister-heavy with, from left to right, freshman Kelsi Collins playing with senior Karli. and sophomore Ashlyn MacGregor playing with senior Micah.

Karli Collins may not be the coolest kid in the world, but she may have the coolest backyard.

Years ago, her parents turned it into regulation-size beach volleyball court.

"It's pretty awesome," said Karli, a senior Sponger steeped in the kind of versatility she learned playing in sand.

For example, Karli can set. She can dig. She can block. She can hit.

Her sister, Kelsi, is almost as good, and if one of set of volleyball-playing sisters wasn't enough, Tarpon Springs coach Patrick Sneed has two.

While the Collinses provide the grit and scrappiness (neither is taller than 5-foot-7), Micah and Ashlyn MacGregor supply the size up front, both standing roughly 6-foot. Micah is a senior and Ashlyn a sophomore.

With two-thirds of their line-up a sisters act, the Spongers have proved to be competitive in 2010, and maybe a little dangerous.

Heading into this week's Class 5A, District 11 tournament at Clearwater, the Spongers are seeded No. 3 and scheduled to take on No. 2 Clearwater.

"We're literally a few points away from breaking into that top 7 you guys do," Sneed said. "I think the confidence is there because the improvement is there. It seems like everything is clicking. My players don't play all year long, so sometimes it takes a while for the wheels to start spinning the right way for us."

That may be changing, as three of the sisters (everyone except for Micah McGregor) play club.

And the Collinses bring an added seriousness to the team.

Their mother, Donna, a former college player, is an assistant coach and headed up the junior varsity team for three seasons. Their younger brother Reilly plays volleyball for Tarpon Springs Middle, and younger sister Elly competes for the Pinellas Heat club program.

Of course, many of their talents are forged in the back yard, with parents competing against siblings in some competitive family matches.

"I guess I'll be nice and say they win once in a while," Karli said, chuckling. "It can be intense."

Karli uses that intensity as the leader of the Spongers. She is like a football fullback, Sneed said, "one of those undersized players that will run through a wall if you ask her and probably has."

Her versatility makes her invaluable. She leads the team in assists, though she doesn't particularly like setting. She is also No. 1 on the team in aces and digs.

But the highlight of her season? Playing with Kelsi, a freshman.

The two have talked for years about playing together, having enjoyed doing so in the family back yard. To do it in high school, even if for only one season, has made the year special.

"We are really tight," Karli said. "We talked about how cool it would be to play together. … It's a bummer we can only do it for one season."

The plan then is to stretch out the 2010 season as long as they can. That means upsetting Clearwater on Wednesday and clinching a postseason berth for the Spongers, who are 12-10 and haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2004.

"We are really going to try so hard," Karli said. "I definitely think we can win and at least do better than we have in the past. If we all play our best game, it can definitely happen."

District volleyball schedules

Class 6A-7

Multiple hosts

Tuesday: North Port (4) vs. Sarasota (5), 7 p.m.; St. Petersburg (6) at Countryside (3), 7.

Wednesday: North Port/Sarasota winner at Palm Harbor University (1), 7; St. Petersburg/Countryside winner at Sarasota Riverview (2), 7.

Thursday: Final, 7. (Final is in Sarasota County if there is a Sarasota county team in the final. If final consists of two Pinellas county schools, higher seed is host.)

Class 5A-12

at Boca Ciega

Tuesday: Boca Ciega (4) vs. Gibbs (5), 7.

Wednesday: Pinellas Park (2) vs. Largo (3), 6:30; Northeast (1) vs. Boca Ciega/Gibbs winner, 7:45.

Thursday: Final, 7.

Class 5A-11

at Clearwater

Tuesday: Seminole (4) vs. Dunedin (5), 7.

Wednesday: Clearwater (2) vs. Tarpon Springs (3), 6; East Lake (1) vs. Seminole/Dunedin winner, 7:30.

Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

Class 4A-10

Multiple hosts

Tuesday: Bradenton Bayshore (5) at Lakewood Ranch (4), 7; Osceola (6) at Palmetto (3), 7; Dixie Hollins (7) at Lakewood (2), 7.

Wednesday: Bayshore/Lakewood Ranch winner at Braden River (1), 7; Osceola/Palmetto winner vs. Dixie/Lakewood winner, 7 (site will be highest seed playing).

Thursday: Final, 7 p.m., site TBD.

Class 3A-10

at Tampa Catholic

Tuesday: Tampa Catholic (4) vs. St. Petersburg Catholic (5), 7.

Wednesday: Clearwater Central Catholic (2) vs. Academy of Holy Names (3), 5; Berkeley Prep (1) vs. Tampa Catholic/SPC winner, 7.

Thursday: Final, 7 p.m.

Class 2A-11

at Bradenton St. Stephens (except for Monday)

Monday: Admiral Farragut (5) at Shorecrest (4), 7.

Tuesday: Out-of-Door (2) vs. St. Stephen's (3), 6; Northside Christian (1) vs. Shorecrest/Admiral Farragut winner, 7.

Thursday: Final, 7.

Class 2A-10

at Tampa Prep

Monday: Bishop McLaughlin (4) vs. Brooks DeBartolo (5), 7.

Tuesday: Indian Rocks Christian (2) vs. Calvary Christian (3), 6; Tampa Prep (1) vs. Bishop McLaughlin/Brooks-DeBartolo winner, 7:30.

Friday: Final, 7.

Class A-9

at Canterbury

Monday: Lakeside Christian (4) vs. Carrollwood Day (5), 5; Canterbury (1) vs. Berean Academy (8), 7.

Tuesday: Canterbury/Berean Academy winner vs. Lakeside Christian/Carrollwood Day winner, 7.

at Cambridge

Monday: Keswick (3) vs. Academy at the Lakes (6), 5; Cambridge Christian (2) vs. Tampa Bay Christian (7), 7.

Tuesday: Cambridge Christian/Tampa Bay Christian winner vs. Keswick/Academy at the Lakes winner, 5 p.m.

Thursday: Final at Cambridge, 7.

Pinellas: District volleyball preview 10/23/10 [Last modified: Saturday, October 23, 2010 9:26pm]
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