When a new sports season begins, it's natural to wonder how a team compares to the competition. Of course, predictions often look foolish in retrospect. But it's fun to speculate and even more fun to poke fun at why Team A is better than Team B and why Player C should get recognition instead of Player D. This, of course, is our best guess based on speaking with coaches and combing through last year's finish to determine the best teams, players and games for the upcoming season. One thing is certain: The North Suncoast has plenty of talent and maybe a team or two that could benefit from new districts to piece together postseason wins.
Preseason North Suncoast Super Seven
1. River Ridge
The Royal Knights have lost six seniors but figure to be very competitive.
The Buccaneers expect to make a strong push with a tough defense.
After playing in Class 6A the past few seasons, the Mustangs will be unleashed in a district made up of mostly North Suncoast teams.
4. Land O'Lakes
The Gators return 16 varsity players after earning a playoff berth last season.
New coach Stephen Jones will have to rally the Cobras after the loss of five starters. There are questions.
The Eagles expect to be a playoff contender after a one-year absence.
7. Wiregrass Ranch
Many coaches have said the Bulls are a team to watch. We'll see.
Izzy Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 421-3886.
Class 5A, District 7
Teams: Central, Ocala Forest, Springstead, Ocala West Port
The skinny: Some coaches think Ocala Forest is the team to beat in this district. Central is still meshing and should have some bright spots this season. Springstead thinks it will battle for the district's No. 1 seed with 11 solid starters.
Class 3A, District 8
Teams: Citrus, Hernando, Land O'Lakes, Lecanto, Nature Coast, River Ridge, Sunlake, Wiregrass Ranch, Zephyrhills
The skinny: River Ridge will work on meshing, but a game with Lakeland George Jenkins might indicate coach Skip Glover thinks they should be back in the playoffs. Land O'Lakes should be in the hunt; Nature Coast is rebuilding, as is Zephyrhills, but look for Sunlake or Wiregrass Ranch to surprise.
Class 3A, District 7
Teams: Anclote, Gulf, Hudson, Mitchell, Pasco, Ridgewood, Wesley Chapel
The skinny: Hudson and Mitchell are always strong. Pasco and Ridgewood will play in the second tier, while Wesley Chapel will continue to struggle. Gulf has the majority of its girls back with just three seniors gone from last year. The Buccaneers are one of the teams with no JV this season.
Class 2A, District 9
Teams: Bishop McLaughlin, Calvary Christian, Carrollwood, Indian Rocks Christian, Tampa Prep
The skinny: The Hurricanes are rebuilding after a couple of good seasons. Look for midfielder Spencer Valdespino — you might recall her name from golf — to lead Bishop McLaughlin.
Wednesday: Hernando at Springstead, 5:30
Friday: Hudson at River Ridge, 6:30
Friday: Mitchell at Land O'Lakes, 7:45
Nov. 10: Gulf at Land O'Lakes, 7
Nov. 12: River Ridge at Mitchell, 7:45
Nov. 17: Gulf at Hudson, 6:30
Nov. 19: Gulf vs. Mitchell, 7
Nov. 24: Land O'Lakes at River Ridge, 7:45
Nov. 24: Ocala Forest at Springstead, 6
Dec. 11: Gulf at River Ridge, 7
Dec. 18: River Ridge at Land O'Lakes, 7:45
Jan. 13: George Jenkins at River Ridge, 6
Players to watch
F Mikaela Morolla, Sr., River Ridge: The Royal Knights' top scoring threat.
F Marisa Russo, Sr., Mitchell: She scored 17 goals for the Mustangs last season.
F Cally Quinn, Sr., Springstead: The transfer from out of state should bolster the offense.
F Chelsea Foster, Jr., Gulf: The Buccaneers' top scoring threat.
MF Alyson Brady, Jr., Springstead: She plays midfield because of her talent.
MF Alicia Schuering, Sr., Hudson: A big piece of the middle for last year's district champs.
MF Shelby Wright, Jr., Mitchell: A talented midfielder with a scoring touch.
D Katy Duke, Jr., Springstead: The right defender takes control of the defense.
MF Alexis Villar, Jr., Land O'Lakes: She can play every position except keeper.
D Dani Schulman, Jr., Gulf: She plays sweeper, and coach Shari Schau calls her the top athlete on the team.
D Stacy Swezey, Jr., Hudson: She was solid in the back row for the Cobras last season.
D Carly Patton, So., Zephyrhills: She was great as a freshman; greater as a sophomore?
GK Jessie Imbimbo, Sr., Hudson: Still playing volleyball, so she'll be late making an impact.
GK Brittany Martin, Sr., Ridgewood: She has plenty of talent and ability to keep offenses away.