The North Suncoast will be hard-pressed to find a program with state final four potential to begin the 2010 season.
The graduation of several star players, and the moves of several coaches has left most programs with unproven talent, unproven coaches and more questions than answers heading into the regular season. A look at some of the craziness since Hudson's exit from the final four last season:
The Cobras had a messy split with one-year wonder Shayna Munson, who left the program after coaching a senior-laden Hudson team to the final four in her only season. The good news is the arrival of Courtney Newton, who assisted former Hudson icon Linda McQuade two years ago. Newton has familiarity with the players and had a great mentor. Another plus for Newton is she is taking over a program void of veterans, which should allow her to put her own stamp on the product. It also could make for an uncomfortable season of growth.
Emily Gore spent one season at Central before jumping to Nature Coast. Gore was after a physical education job, and the exit of former coach Dan Murphy made the move to Nature Coast extremely appealing. The Sharks lost key players, including Alex Livengood, but return standouts such as Courtney Liddle.
McQuade has returned to the volleyball court. The former Hudson coach will guide first-year Fivay, giving her an opportunity to build a program from scratch. At Hudson, McQuade led the Cobras to 10 playoff berths, including three trips to the state final four. She had stepped down to care for her mother but missed coaching.
Searching for respect
Mitchell began the 2009 season as an unproven group. Coach Keith Paulk quickly made it known the Mustangs were a potent bunch, and Mitchell ultimately finished 11-11. This season, he expects even greater strides with a group of talented girls led by senior Devan Dampier. Also in the mix is Jessica Lestishock, who returns to Pasco County after living in Texas. Paulk said his girls have played year-round thanks to a new club team run by his junior varsity coach, so the Mustangs should be familiar enough with one another when they face Hudson on Tuesday night.
Eagles are back
Springstead and coach Darcy Hinton caught the North Suncoast's attention with an 8-2 start, then pushed Hudson to five games in a loss. But the inexperienced Eagles went 3-7 down the stretch. Expect an improved group, led by Allyson Schillinger, Megan Morrison and Carly Wiggins, to rebound in 2010 and to be ready for the rigors of a long season.
Keep an eye on
Raqurra Ishmar, Sr., Central
Madeline Hanshaw, Sr., Hernando Christian
Remington Manuel, Jr., Hernando Christian
Leighlani Paselio, Jr., Gulf
Brittany Hill, Sr., Hernando
Morgan Crescent, Sr., Land O'Lakes
Jessica Johnson, Jr., Land O'Lakes
Devan Dampier, Sr., Mitchell
Jessica Lestishock, Jr., Mitchell
Alex Coscia, Sr., Nature Coast
Courtney Liddle, Jr., Nature Coast
Beth Barthle, Sr., Pasco
Courtney Brandt, Sr., Pasco
Lauren Vanker, Sr., Ridgewood
Megan Morrison, Jr., Springstead
Allyson Schillinger, Jr., Springstead
Carly Wiggins, Jr., Springstead
Ellen Toneff, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch
Chelsea Violenes, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch
Tuesday: Hudson at Mitchell, 7
Friday: Springstead at Hernando, 7:30
Sept. 7: Hudson at Fivay, 7:30
Sept. 9: River Ridge at Hudson, 7:30
Sept. 10: Springstead Invitational, 4
Sept. 28: Nature Coast at Zephyrhills, 7:30
Oct. 25-29: District tournaments
Nov. 2-3: Region quarterfinals
Nov. 9: Region semifinals
Nov. 13: Region finals
Nov. 17-20: State final four
Izzy Gould can be reached at [email protected]