Saturday, February 24, 2018

HomeTeam 25: Volleyball rankings for Tampa Bay

1. Plant (8-2)

This week: Wednesday vs. Freedom, Thursday at Steinbrenner

The buzz: The Panthers have won five straight matches after losing to Sarasota Riverview in a tournament two weeks ago. Plant's other loss is against state power Venice. The Panthers appear to be rounding into shape after the Hurricane Irma delay.

2. Berkeley Prep (13-2)

This week: Today vs. Cypress Creek, Thursday at Tampa Prep

The buzz: The Bucs were 4-1 at the Chicago tournament last weekend, winning the Silver division. They are clearly playing good volleyball right now and should be able to get through this week.

3. Palm Harbor University (11-0)

This week: Thursday vs. East Lake

The buzz: The schedule has not been difficult to date. That changes a bit this week with two talented teams. The Hurricanes already defeated one, Tarpon Springs, on Monday. They are loaded and haven't lost a game since the second match of the season against Seminole, and that was with reserve players.

4. Clearwater (12-2)

This week: Today at Northeast, Thursday vs. Tarpon Springs

The buzz: The Tornadoes lost their first two matches last weekend against Robinson and Northside Christian at the Mustang Invitational. They need to shake off those losses this week. The best match should be against Tarpon Springs.

5. King (14-0)

This week: Wednesday vs. Hillsborough, Thursday vs. Chamberlain, Friday-Saturday at Wharton tournament

The buzz: The Lions are one of only two undefeated area teams still remaining. King is trying hold off Brandon in Class 7A, District 7. The Wharton tournament will be a good pre-district challenge.

6. Carrollwood Day (11-2)

This week: Today vs. Seffner Christian, Wednesday at Indian Rocks Christian, Thursday at Academy of the Holy Names, Friday at Northside Christian

The buzz: The week started with a 3-0 sweep of Grace Christian. It gets more difficult as the week wears on. The Patriots have won eight straight and are currently on top of Class 4A, District 4.

7. Steinbrenner (9-3)

This week: Today vs. Freedom, Wednesday vs. Gaither, Thursday vs. Plant

The buzz: This week is all about Class 8A, District 8, with the best match on Thursday against Plant. Those two may be the best teams in a very good district and it may determine the top seed.

8. Tampa Bay HEAT (14-2)

This week: Today vs. Academy at the Lakes

The buzz: A much lighter week after three matches last week. But the HEAT have won five straight after a loss to Academy of the Holy Names and have a good chance to win out the rest of the regular season. A win over AATL will clinch the top spot in Class 3A, District 4.

9. Nature Coast (8-2)

This week: Today vs. Hernando, Wednesday at Springstead, Thursday vs. Crystal River

The buzz: The Class 6A, District 7 race looks like three teams: Nature Coast, Crystal River and Weeki Wachee. The Sharks must bounce back from a loss to Weeki Wachee last week. Hernando and Crystal River are both district matches this week.

10. Robinson (15-3)

This week: Today at Jefferson, Thursday vs. Jefferson

The buzz: The Knights are rolling after winning the Mustang Invitational on Saturday. They have won nine straight matches and dropped only one game, against Northside Christian in the Mustang final. Freshman Mila Yarich has been a big addition, with a team-high 130 kills.

11. Northside Christian (11-2)

This week: Today vs. Calvary Christian, Friday vs. Carrollwood Day

The buzz: The Mustangs made it all the way to the finals of their invitational last weekend before losing in three games to Robinson. This week will go a long way in determining how good the Mustangs are.

12. Tarpon Springs (14-4)

This week: Today at Clearwater Central Catholic, Wednesday at Bradenton Bayshore, Thursday at Clearwater

The buzz: Hard to imagine a tougher week for the Spongers. They have played very well up to this point and are one of the top four teams in the PCAC tournament. But this week will be a test every match. PHU beat them 3-0 on Monday.

13. Fivay (16-3)

This week: Today at Anclote, Thursday vs. Pasco

The buzz: The Falcons are coming off a big week. They won five matches at the Fivay Invitational, all by sweeps. They also defeated River Ridge and Academy at the Lakes earlier in the week. Both matches this week are against Class 6A, District 8 opponents.

14. Bishop McLaughlin (11-2)

This week: Today vs. Winter Haven All Saints', Wednesday at Academy of the Lakes

The buzz: The Hurricanes have won five straight matches without dropping a game. Gabriella and Audrey Koenig have been dominant at the net, and Madison Janning has been feeding them the ball all season.

15. Tampa Catholic (14-6)

This week: Today vs. Brooks DeBartolo, Thursday vs. Sarasota Military Academy

The buzz: The Crusaders lost three straight matches to end last week, but got back to winning on Monday by beating Seffner Christian. Both matches this week are Class 5A, District 9, and Tampa Catholic needs wins to keep pace.

16. Mitchell (13-7)

This week: Today vs. Springstead, Thursday at Springstead

The buzz: The Mustangs hit a big bump in the road last weekend in Fort Myers with four straight losses in a tournament. But that was followed by two straight wins, including a 3-0 win over Countryside on Monday. Springstead is Class 7A, District 8 opponent and the Mustangs can clinch the top spot with two wins this week.

17. Wiregrass Ranch (13-5)

This week: Today vs. Sunlake, Thursday at Wharton, Friday vs. Gaither

The buzz: The Bulls were tripped up by two tough district opponents last week, Steinbrenner and Plant. That was followed by two straight wins. It looks as if the Bulls are the third best team in a very tough district.

18. Bloomingdale (7-3)

This week: Wednesday at East Bay, Thursday at Lennard

The buzz: The week started with a three-game sweep of Strawberry Crest. The Bulls are on top of Class 8A, District 9 and need these two district matches this week to stay there.

19. Land O'Lakes (12-7)

This week: Thursday vs. River Ridge, Friday at Sunlake

The buzz: The Gators were 2-3 in the Mustang Invitational last weekend. They got back on track with a win on Monday over Academy at the Lakes. This week should continue the win streak as they get near post season play.

20. Academy of the Holy Names (9-3)

This week: Today vs. Sarasota Cardinal Mooney, Thursday vs. Carrollwood Day

The buzz: AHN has won five straight, including a five-gamer over Clearwater Central Catholic. Thursday's match is a husband and wife showdown, with AHN coach Laura Praetorius going against spouse Eric Praetorius.

21. Springstead (11-2)

This week: Today at Mitchell, Wednesday vs. Nature Coast, Thursday vs. Mitchell

The buzz: The Eagles lost to Land O'Lakes last week but bounced back with two wins. This week is difficult, especially with two district matches against Mitchell.

22. Wharton (5-2)

This week: Today vs. Durant, Wednesday vs. Wiregrass Ranch, Thursday vs. Leto

The buzz: The Wildcats haven't played much, but they have some good wins so far, including one over Steinbrenner. Wiregrass Ranch is the big district match this week.

23. East Lake (9-5)

This week: Today vs. Seminole, Wednesday at Palm Harbor University, Friday-Saturday at Lakeland tournament:

The buzz: New coach Terry Small will make the Eagles better each week. Senior Jessie Hansen is a dominant player who can take over at the net.

24. Academy at the Lakes (11-5)

This week: Today at Tampa Bay HEAT, Wednesday vs. Bishop McLaughlin

The buzz: This is a tough week for the Wildcats. They started with a loss to Land O'Lakes on Monday and it doesn't get any easier.

25. Clearwater Central Catholic (6-5)

This week: Today vs. Tarpon Springs, Wednesday at Brooks DeBartolo

The buzz: The Marauders got some good news last week with the return of junior libero Pammy Robinson, who was out with mono. Senior outside hitter Cameron Fitzpatrick has 25 kills last week against Tampa Prep. Tarpon Springs is the big challenge this week.

On the bubble: Seffner Christian (7-5), Hillsborough (4-3), Hernando (5-5), Calvary Christian (5-4).

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