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Durant starts out strong, to competitors' dismay

Just one week into the volleyball season, the verdict is in. And for once, Gaither and Sickles are in agreement: Durant makes a lousy new neighbor.

That's the consensus one week into the new volleyball season. Especially since the defending Class 5A Champion Durant Cougars now reside in Class 6A, District 7 with Bloomingdale and area neighbors Sickles and Gaither. The Cougars took little time introducing themselves to the Gryphons and Cowboys. The results were a 15-4, 15-4 win against Sickles and a 15-1, 15-11 victory over Gaither. Thursday night, Durant also took care of Bloomingdale in two games.

"We knew they were a tough team," said Sickles coach Robert Brashear. "It was a tough first game to open the year with, but we played much better in the Gaither game."

Sickles rebounded to beat Gaither 15-5, 5-15, 15-12. So with the new scheduling mandate dictating teams play the bulk of their district games at the start of the season, the 6A-7 race is already coming into focus: Durant 3-0; Sickles 1-1; Gaither 0-2 and Bloomingdale 0-1.

Durant will face all its new district foes during the next 10 days, hosting Gaither on Tuesday, Sickles on Thursday and Bloomingdale on Sept. 19. Gaither will play at Bloomingdale and East Lake while Sickles will host Bloomingdale before the Durant match.

"It definitely lets you know where you are as a team right away," said Gaither coach Cindy Smith. "But there are still a lot of matches left to play."

CROSS COUNTRY: Sickles was well represented at Thursday's Raider Invitational in Plant City. The Gryphons had the top two runners in Dan Doromal (15:35) and Adam Sisler (15:42) but placed second as a team, just behind Bloomingdale. Chamberlain's Nathan Adams was fourth at 15:50, Gaither's Jeremy Hall was fifth at 16:03 and Wharton's Andrew Fulton was eighth at 16:43.

On the girls side, Sickles finished fifth, Gaither was eighth and Leto placed 11th among the 16 squads competing. Gaither's Amanda Wells placed third with a 18:42 time and Sickles' Jessica Hunter placed eighth at 20:51.

The Gaither, Leto, Chamberlain, Sickles and Wharton boys and girls teams will all be competing at the Jesuit/USF Invitational Sept. 16 at USF.

GOLF: Gaither's boys stayed undefeated last week, topping Hillsborough and Blake 163-190-191. The Cowboys, 4-0, play Hillsborough and Sickles in a tri-match Tuesday at Cheval. In girls action, Chamberlain improved to 3-0 by defeating King 156-204. Whitney Code led all golfers with a nine-hole score of 36. Her sister Mallory Code fired a 39, followed by Jennifer Stanley's 40 and Mandy Barenbrugge's 41. In its lone match this week, Chamberlain faces Sickles on Wednesday at Heritage Harbor.

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