|Players to watch|
|Haillee Bislick Sr., Hudson||Left-side hitter is entering her fourth season on Cobras varsity.|
|Veronica Harring Sr., Mitchell||Mustangs' most versatile player also is their quickest.|
|Amy Petrella Sr., Mitchell||Earned the nickname "Cannon" with more than 190 kills in 2007.|
|Leah Mitchell Jr., River Ridge||Middle hitter was a second-team all-North Suncoast pick in '07.|
|Alex Laton Sr., River Ridge||Heady front-line player jumps and touches 9 feet, 6 inches.|
|Alex Livengood Jr., Nature Coast||She's probably the strongest returning player for the Sharks.|
|Kayla Bailey Sr., Nature Coast||A strong middle hitter and blocker, she has gotten stronger since last season.|
|Courtney Little Fr., Nature Coast||She came from Challenger Middle and is stepping right on varsity.|
Unlike some other fall sports (swimming, golf, cross country) where athletes conceivably can reach a state tournament on their own, volleyball is "team" to the hilt. And naturally, what's more important to any team than a playoff berth? With that in mind, we take a district-by-district look at the 2008 volleyball season, hopefully to offer a gauge of your favorite team's postseason chances.
Class 6A, District 7
Teams: Alonso, Countryside, Gaither, Mitchell, St. Petersburg, Sickles
'07 playoff teams: Sickles (champion), Countryside (runnerup)
The skinny: If there were a season the Mustangs appeared poised to overtake district heavyweights Countryside and Sickles, this would be it. Coach Keith Paulk's top six players are seniors, led by fourth-year veteran Veronica Harring, who literally will play everywhere. Perhaps the team's biggest concern is how effectively senior Alyssa Updegrave makes the unlikely transition from libero to middle hitter.
Class 5A, District 7
Teams: Central, Land O'Lakes, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Wesley Chapel
'07 playoff teams: River Ridge (champion), Land O'Lakes (runnerup)
The skinny: River Ridge, seeking its seventh consecutive district crown, lost no fewer than five prominent players from last season's 24-6 team. But does anyone really think Heidi Castelamare's club will drop from playoff contention? The Knights again are stacked with rangy hitters, and Castelamare says senior Brianna Rish is the best libero around. … The Gators lose arguably the area's best player in Kayli Keough (now playing basketball at Florida State), but expect them to answer with other options to contend for the district crown. … Central lost only three seniors off a team that won 10 games last season.
Class 4A, District 8
Teams: Gulf, Hernando, Hudson, Nature Coast, Pasco, Springstead, Sunlake, Wiregrass Ranch, Zephyrhills
'07 playoff teams: Nature Coast (champion), Zephyrhills (runnerup)
The skinny: Nature Coast returns with the hope of defending its first district title with a deep run in the state playoffs. Can it happen? The Sharks return all of their key starters and appear to be in good shape to make a run. … The Bulldogs have a new coach in Dan Muir, a volunteer assistant last season. … Hudson, defeated by Nature Coast in last season's district semifinals, has enough talent around senior left-side hitter Haillee Bislick to contend for its fifth playoff berth in six seasons.
Class 2A, District 9
Teams: Bishop McLaughlin, Calvary Christian, Indian Rocks Christian, Tampa Prep
'07 playoff teams: Indian Rocks Christian (champion), Tampa Prep (runnerup)
The skinny: The Hurricanes will have their hands full with the likes of powerhouse IRC and Tampa Prep, and without key hitter Marissa Gill will have their work cut out for them.
Class A, District 9
Teams: Academy at the Lakes, Canterbury, Carrollwood, Citrus Park Christian, Lakeside Christian, Oldsmar Christian
'07 playoff teams: Canterbury (champion), Lakeside Christian (runnerup)
The skinny: The Wildcats roared all the way to the district's No. 3 seed, so a playoff berth could be within reach. Class A, District 3
Teams: HCA, Leesburg First Academy, Cedar Key, Ocala Meadowbrook, Ocala St. John Lutheran, Lecanto Seven Rivers Christian
'07 playoff teams: Seven Rivers (champion), St. John Lutheran (runnerup)
The skinny: HCA, seeded second in last year's district tournament before a semifinal loss to St. John Lutheran, is rebuilding. Coach Sue Murphy's roster features one senior and five freshmen. Nonetheless, Murphy expects her club to be one of at least four to seriously contend for the playoffs.