Pinellas teams are favored in at least four of the six district volleyball tournaments that involve local teams. Those tournaments start this week, with two commencing today.
The district tournaments are the start of the three-week state playoffs. Winners advance to regional matches on Nov. 1. Sectional matches are Nov. 4, and the state tournament is the following weekend.
Spectators to the district tournaments may find sticker shock. The Florida High School Activities Association raised district admission prices to $4 per person (some schools are offering student discounts).
Here's a look at the tournaments:
Class 6A, District 8: Like last year, this tournament is unpredictable. In 1993, a young 9-7 Sarasota Riverview team surprised everyone by taking the title.
Guess what? Riverview is 9-7 again. Host Bradenton Manatee is 19-8, but the quality of their opponents is an unknown. From Pinellas, Countryside may emerge the favorite (the Cougars play Riverview in the first round). Countryside concluded its season with nine consecutive wins, for a 13-8 record. The Cougars beat fellow 6A-8 member, Seminole, 16-14, 15-9 for their ninth win in the string.
Class 5A, District 7: Although Pinellas County Athletic Conference champion Clearwater is the top seed, the Tornadoes are not in for a breeze. If they reach the final, they'll likely play either host East Lake or Tarpon Springs. Clearwater needed three games to beat those teams during the season.
Tarpon beat East Lake (also in three games) during the season.
Class 5A, District 8: Pinellas Park needed three games to beat Largo recently and the two are expected to battle again in the final. Largo is having one of its finest seasons, but host Pinellas Park's mostly-young team has improved continually through the year.
Class 4A, District 8: Despite their smaller enrollments, Lakewood and host Clearwater Central Catholic are two of the county's best teams. The Spartans beat CCC last week, 15-8, 3-15, 15-6, in their only encounter so far.
The winner of this district has a good shot to reach the state tournament (which Lakewood did last year).
Class 3A, District 6: This is where the seeding system fell apart. Neither Tampa Prep or Berkeley Prep, two nationally ranked teams, is seeded first. Sarasota Cardinal Mooney, which did not play either team during the season, compiled a better record (15-1) and is No. 1. The seeding means that St. Petersburg Catholic got matched with third-seeded Berkeley in the first round. Tampa's Academy of the Holy Names is the host.
Class 2A, District 10: Shorecrest (21-4) is the top seed, but that is not a comfortable spot. The Chargers were No. 1 last year and were upset in a semifinal. Shorecrest is better this time, although Northside Christian is strong enough to pull an upset. Canterbury is seeded second although the Crusaders haven't played any of the top teams. The Northside-Keswick pairing is a tough first-round match.
Class 6A, District 8
AT BRADENTON MANATEE
Countryside vs. Riverview, 6:30 p.m.
Seminole vs. Manatee, 8 p.m.
Northeast vs. Countryside-Riverview winner, 4 p.m.
Sarasota vs. Seminole-Manatee winner, 5:30 p.m.
Championship, 8 p.m.
Class 5A, District 7
AT EAST LAKE H.S.
Gulf vs. Dunedin, 5:30 p.m.
Tarpon Springs vs. Ridgewood, 6:30 p.m.
East Lake vs. Springstead, 7:30 p.m.
Tarpon Springs-Ridgewood winner vs. East Lake-Springstead winner, 6 p.m.
Clearwater vs. Gulf-Dunedin winner, 7 p.m.
Championship, 5:30 p.m.
Class 5A, District 8
AT PINELLAS PARK H.S.
Boca Ciega vs. St. Petersburg, 6 p.m.
Gibbs vs. Dixie Hollins, 7 p.m.
Pinellas Park vs. Boca Ciega-St. Petersburg winner, 6 p.m.
Largo vs. Gibbs-Dixie Hollins winner, 7 p.m.
Class 4A, District 8
AT CLEARWATER CENTRAL CATHOLIC
CCC vs. River Ridge, 6 p.m.
Lakewood vs. Osceola, 8 p.m.
Championship, 7 p.m.
Class 3A, District 6
AT ACADEMY OF HOLY NAMES
Fort Meade vs. Tampa Catholic, 7 p.m.
Holy Names vs. Lake Placid, 6 p.m.
Berkeley Prep vs. SP Catholic, 6:30 p.m.
Tampa Prep vs. Frostproof, 6 p.m.
Cardinal Mooney vs. Fort Meade-Tampa Cath. winner, 7:30 p.m.
Acad. Holy Names-Lake Placid winner vs. Berkeley Prep-SP Catholic winner, 6:30 p.m.
Class 2A, District 10
AT NORTHSIDE CHRISTIAN
Indian Rocks Chr. vs. Admiral Farragut, 6:15 p.m.
Lakeside Chr. vs. Sarasota Chr., 7:30 p.m.
St. Stephen's vs. Bradenton Christian, 3:45 p.m.
Northside Christian vs. Keswick Christian, 5 p.m.
Canterbury vs. Lakeside Chr.-Sarasota Chr. winner, 6:15 p.m.
Shorecrest vs. Indian Rocks Chr.-Adm. Farragut winner, 7:30 p.m.
Brad. St. Stephen's-Bradenton Chr. winner vs. Shorecrest-Indian Rocks Chr.-Adm. Farragut winner, 6:15 p.m.
Northside Chr.-Keswick Chr. winner vs. Canterbury-Lakeside Chr.-Sarasota Chr. winner, 7:30 p.m.
Championship, 7:30 p.m.