Season preview: North Suncoast volleyball

Courtney Liddle and her Nature Coast teammates are ready to shake off a rough finish to last season and focus on recapturing glory with a squad of young yet talented players.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Courtney Liddle and her Nature Coast teammates are ready to shake off a rough finish to last season and focus on recapturing glory with a squad of young yet talented players.

BROOKSVILLE — No one wants to talk about how Nature Coast's season ended.

Something clearly wasn't right behind the scenes.

The Sharks had ruled the waters of the North Suncoast, showing their teeth along the way to dropping just 11 games in the regular season and just two matches.

Heavy favorites to defeat Hudson for the third consecutive time in the district tournament final, Nature Coast was swept 3-0 and sent on the road for the playoffs. The Sharks lost that one too, 3-0 at Orlando Bishop Moore.

"It was a tough finish," Sharks sophomore Courtney Liddle said. "… Maybe some girls thought we were too confident."

Liddle, along with Alex Livengood and Rachel Powell, is committed to not letting the Sharks fall again. But they'll have a tough task bringing along a young group of untested players.

Lost to graduation are Kayla Bailey and Randi Roppolo, big-time players who were key pieces for the Sharks.

One important addition is freshman Courtney Skinner, who will play libero.

"I think with the young girls they have to figure everything out," Livengood said. "We have to be leaders. As returning players we need to set an example, and hopefully they follow us."

Nature Coast coach Dan Murphy said the addition of one freshman and five sophomores to varsity, plus the switch in districts will be a big enough challenge in the hunt for a playoff berth and district title.

"They're not rookies," Murphy said. "Because they play club ball they're seasoned in strong competition. We're looking to hopefully be one of the teams to beat."

Players to watch

Alex Livengood, Sr., OH, Nature Coast: Led the North Suncoast in kills 391 kills, 107 aces and 209 digs.

Gabriella Gonzalez, Sr., S, River Ridge: Led the Royal Knights with 100 aces, 73 kills, 135 blocks and a whopping 416 assists.

Courtney Liddle, So., MH, Nature Coast: Made her mark with 235 kills, 111 aces and 424 digs as a freshman.

Leah Mitchell, Sr., MH, River Ridge: Royal Knights' strength in the middle with 216 kills, 94 aces and 98 blocks.

Sarangelys Cruz, Sr., MH, Ridgewood: Sunshine Athletic Conference Player of the Year with 72 aces, 146 digs, 228 kills, 58 blocks.

Shannon Zasloff, Sr., MH, Hudson: Led Cobras with 196 kills, 45 aces and 25 digs.

Katy McGee, Sr., MH, Hudson: Had 160 kills and 101 blocks.

Quynn Fonseca, Sr., OH, Central: The Bears' leader comes up with big plays and strong leadership.

Colleen McCaffrey, Sr., OH, Wiregrass Ranch: Helped the Bulls to a 16-8 finish with 132 kills, 62 aces and 77 digs.

Shelby Mander, Jr., OH, Pasco: Had a team-high 119 kills, 37 aces and 15 digs.

New districts

Class 5A, District 7

Teams: Central, Ocala Forest, Springstead, Ocala West Port

Outlook: Springstead held its own in a tough district tournament, pushing rival Nature Coast and pulling an upset along the way. The Eagles are primed to build on that success. The Bears have a new coach in Emily Gore, who inherits a team ready to contend for the district title. She replaces Vicki Weaver.

Class 4A, District 8

Teams: Citrus, Hernando, Land O'Lakes, Lecanto, Nature Coast, River Ridge, Sunlake, Wiregrass Ranch, Zephyrhills

Outlook: Arguably the toughest district on the North Suncoast. This district will have huge battles between powers Nature Coast, River Ridge, Wiregrass Ranch and Zephyrhills. It is anyone's district to be had. The Royal Knights are no longer coached by Heidi Castelamare, who is now athletic director at Anclote.

Class 4A, District 7

Teams: Anclote, Gulf, Hudson, Mitchell, Pasco, Ridgewood, Wesley Chapel

Outlook: Another challenging district with improvements at Wesley Chapel and Pasco. But the typical powers — Hudson, Mitchell and Ridgewood — will be battling for the district's top seed.

Class 2A, District 10

Teams: Bishop McLaughlin, Brooks-DeBartolo, Calvary Christian, Indian Rocks Christian, Tampa Prep

Outlook: The good news: The Hurricanes are in a new district. The bad news: Tampa Prep, Indian Rocks and Calvary moved right along with them.

Class A, District 8

Teams: Bayshore Christian, Bradenton Christian, Citrus Park Christian, Hernando Christian, Seffner Christian

Outlook: The Lions move to a new district, but still have tough competition in Bayshore Christian and Bradenton Christian.

Class A, District 9

Teams: Academy at the Lakes, Cambridge, Canterbury, Carrollwood, Keswick Christian, Lakeside Christian, Tampa Bay Christian

Outlook: Former Tampa Bay Lightning star Dave Andreychuk's daughters, Caci and Taylor, are key pieces for the Wildcats.

Season preview: North Suncoast volleyball 08/27/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 27, 2009 8:59pm]

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