In volleyball, outside hitters are much like goal scorers in soccer or running backs in football. It's their job to finish what their teammates started.
"They kind of count on you to make the point," Palm Harbor University junior outside hitter Julia Angelo said.
Angelo is one of several Tampa Bay-area players who made a habit of finishing points for their teams this season. In fact, she is one of three outside hitters selected to head the Tampa Bay Times' All-Tampa Bay volleyball team: Angelo had 259 kills for the region finalist Hurricanes; senior Catia Sleet hammered home 430 kills for state semifinalist Robinson; and sophomore Jessie Mooney had 336 kills for state finalist Mitchell.
Angelo said she was attracted to volleyball the first time she tried it. She almost immediately gravitated to outside hitter. A three-year player on the Hurricanes' varsity team, Angelo had to overcome some disadvantages before becoming a trusted outside hitter.
"My jump isn't like some girls', but the main thing for me is my speed to the ball," Angelo said. "It's about power and speed for me."
Unlike Angelo, Mooney wasn't immediately drawn to the position. She started out playing middle hitter for her club team, Komodo Volleyball, and until this year would have to go back and forth between the positions for club and high school volleyball.
"Every school year I'd have to adjust and get my timing right for the outside because it's a higher set," Mooney said. "Now, this year is my first year playing outside for club. They came to games, my coaches for club, so they were probably like, 'Okay, maybe we can move her to the outside.' "
Mooney clearly excelled at outside hitter, leading Mitchell to its first state championship appearance, a 3-0 loss to Jensen Beach. The Mustangs were one of just two teams in the Tampa Bay area to advance to a state final.
As for Sleet, outside hitter has been routine for the Robinson senior, who said she's been playing the position since she was young. And unlike Mitchell, which made its first trip to the state final four, the Knights have become regulars in the 5A state semifinals, due in large part to Sleet.
In four years on the varsity squad, Sleet helped lead Robinson to three straight state semis. Robinson's season ended with a final four loss to Bishop Moore.
But even though her high school career is over, Sleet loves playing outside hitter so much that she plans to continue doing it at the next level when she joins the team at Furman University next fall.
"I like that I can contribute basically every way — serving, passing, defense, blocking, hitting," she said. "I'm not one-dimensional."
HILLSBOROUGH PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
OH Catia Sleet, Sr., Robinson
Best match: It's hard to pick just one match for Sleet, who averaged 4.6 kills per set, but perhaps her best of the season was a game against Winter Park in the Bishop Moore Tournament. Sleet totaled 21 kills in the 2-0 victory, posting a .410 hitting percentage. "It was my best match because one of our starters had gotten hurt the day before," she said, "so I really showed up and led the team."
Final stats: Sleet finished her senior year with 430 kills, 262 more than the next best Knight, 53 service aces and 168 digs.
Best moment: For Sleet, it was before the season even began, when the Knights attended team camp at the University of Tampa. Starting off the 2015 campaign on the right foot, she said, started the tone for a successful season. "We had never done anything like that before. … You don't actually have to be on the team yet because it's before tryouts," she said. "You can just register with your school, and you room with your teammates and you play in a tournament. It was a lot of fun to be with my teammates, and ultimately we won the whole thing."
What's next: Sleet had a couple options to play college volleyball, but from the start she was interested in attending Furman University, where her father used to be an All-American football player. "At first I didn't hear much from them, but I kept sending them stuff, sent them video. Then they started to respond," she said. "When I went up there for an unofficial visit, I just knew." Sleet said she'd like to later attend medical school with hopes of one day becoming a military doctor.
Quotable: "What I'm going to remember is not only that we went to states, but I had such great teammates. Even though every year the amount and type of girls changed, we just always had this great dynamic on the team, and I think that's what got us to states."
PINELLAS PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
OH Julia Angelo, Jr., Palm Harbor University
Best match: Even though things did not go well on a couple of levels, Angelo pointed to the Class 7A region final against Venice. The Hurricanes not only lost that match 3-1, but Angelo left in Game 2 with what turned out to be torn ligaments in her left knee. "Everyone came together in that game and played so much harder," Angelo said. "That kind of game wakes you up and makes you play better."
Final stats: Angelo finished her junior year with a team-high 259 kills, 24 aces and 247 digs. "She was the leader of our team," coach Dexter Rogers said.
Best moment: Angelo said it was the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game against rival East Lake. The Hurricanes, who were missing two starters, lost the first game but rallied to win the final three to take the match. "We had two players out that game and we came back and won after losing the first set," Angelo said.
What's next: While only a junior, Angelo has already orally committed to Louisiana-Lafayette University. She is currently in a leg brace due to the knee injury and will not be able to return to the court until May. She then plans to rejoin her club team for summer tournaments. Outside of volleyball, Angelo said she would like to be anesthesiologist. She is going to college to become a registered nurse.
Quotable: "I just wanted to do something different for four years (on choosing Louisiana-Lafayette). I figured if I didn't leave (Palm Harbor) I might not ever leave."
NORTH SUNCOAST PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
OH Jessie Mooney, So., Mitchell
Best match: Mooney's best match of the season was also perhaps the biggest one for the Mustangs, as they beat Ocala Forest 3-1 in the state semifinals to earn a trip to the 6A state championship in Orlando. Mooney had a season-high 20 kills and 19 digs in that match. "That was the best game, and I wish I could go back and play it over and over again, but I can't," she said. "I wish that one was on TV because that one was the most exciting and the hardest one we played."
Final stats: Mooney was one of five Mustangs who posted at least 100 kills on the season, but she led the way with 336 and a team-high 65 service aces.
Best moment: Mooney's wasn't in a match, but rather after one, as she celebrated her team's state championship berth with her teammates. "Right after we won the Forest game … We were all in a hug when everyone else was clapping," she said. "We were crying and hugging. It was the best moment."
What's next: Mooney still has two seasons left at Mitchell. She'd like to one day play volleyball in college and attend medical school, but before that, she's got her mind set on getting back to the state final. "Now that I've done it, that's what our goal is for next year," she said. "We're going to work hard and get there, and I think that's what our mind-set is."
Quotable: "After our (district championship) loss to Sunlake, that's when we started training harder. I think if we started doing that the whole season, we're definitely going to get there next year and hopefully win."
OH Ansley Gould, Sr., Plant: Gould led a balanced offense with 274 kills, 48 aces and 173 digs, helping the Panthers get to the 7A state championship game.
OH Kathryn Attar, Jr., Wharton: The Colorado commit had 358 kills, 59 aces and 169 digs, leading the Wildcats to a 22-5 regular-season record.
OH Camille Opp, Jr., Academy of the Holy Names: The Tulane commit had 361 kills, an average of 4.5 per set, for the region semifinalist Jaguars. Opp added 26 aces and 36 blocks.
S Abby Strong, Fr., Palm Harbor University: Strong, whose big sister Emma is also on the team, fit right in as a freshman. She had 645 assists, 209 digs and 45 aces.
S Payton Murchie, Sr., Mitchell: Murchie controlled the offense for the Mustangs; she had 881 assists.
MH Miranda Werkmeister, Jr., Weeki Wachee: Werkmeister was all over the place for the Hornets. She not only had 398 kills, but she added 439 digs.
MH Aubree Sigismondi, Sr., Ridgewood: The Rams were 25-2 and Sigismondi was a big reason why. She recorded 308 kills, had 39 aces and 197 blocks.
LIB Chrissy Brynjolfsson, Sr., Carrollwood Day: Brynjolfsson had a team-high 412 digs and added 58 assists for the region finalist Patriots.
OH/MH Jenna Hampton, So., Berkeley Prep
OH/MH Caslin Layer, So., Calvary Christian
OH/MH Danielle Ballou, Jr., East Lake
OH/MH Abby Zimroth, Sr., Tampa Catholic
OH/MH Kelsey Riquelme, Sr., Sunlake
S Casey Brynjolfsson, Sr., Carrollwood Day
S Carson Gibbs, Jr., Plant
LIB Emily Draper, Jr., Robinson
OH/MH Camryn Vogler, Fr., Plant
OH/MH Emma Strong, Jr., Palm Harbor University
OH/MH Anna Vollmer, Jr., Clearwater Central Catholic
OH/MH Savanna Roy, Sr., Shorecrest
OH/MH Lindsey Schaible, Sr., Wharton
S Bailey Morey, Jr., East Lake
S Kendall Bulleit, Jr., Academy of the Holy Names
LIB Ashley Golden, Sr., Clearwater
Academy at the Lakes: Alexis Forrester; Gigi Chiaramonte. Berkeley Prep: Madison Jenkins. Bloomingdale: Emily Doyle. Cambridge Christian: Katherine Dykes. Carrollwood Day: Madison Besterfield, Stevie Schweitzer, Gabriela Quarles. Clearwater: Rachel Pohl. Clearwater Central Catholic: Cameron Fitzpatrick, Sam Abbott, Ashten Fulk, Rachel Schmitz. Dunedin: Olivia Welsh. Durant: Emma Rustenburghe. East Lake: Shannon Farley. Hernando: Ali Bronson. Indian Rocks Christian: Autumn Frost. Mitchell: Kayla Widera. Palm Harbor University: Annamarie Huy. Plant: Kaylie Butts. Ridgewood: Johannah Cummines, Sara Pretto. Riverview: Shelby Akos, Savannah Roach. Robinson: Rebecca Hill. St. Petersburg: Jenna Smith, Natalie Danner. St. Petersburg Catholic: Christiana Calandra. Seffner Christian: Hannah Gallagher, Emma Noskey, Krista Trimble. Seminole: Brittony Monty. Shorecrest: Jacqueline St. Cin, Taylor Waldmann. Springstead: Jennifer Aten. Steinbrenner: Erin LeClair. Strawberry Crest: Terra Brooks. Sunlake: Colby Coats, Gianna Basulto. Tampa Bay HEAT: Abigail Hodges, Allison Rogers, Catherine Trueheart. Tampa Prep: Alana Nelson. Tampa Catholic: Riley Del Giudice. Weeki Wachee: Zoe Murchio, Sarah Asbury. Wharton: Gracie Viloria.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Kelly Werkmeister, Weeki Wachee: Not only did the Hornets win their first district championship, but they advanced to the Class 5A region final. Weeki Wachee finished the season 23-8, notching the most single-season wins in school history. The Hornets won 17 straight matches before finally losing the region final 3-1 to Ponte Vedra.