Volleyball looks to defend district title

+Outside+hitter+Leandra+Mangual+spikes++the+ball+against+Oviedo+on+Thursday%2C+Sept.+8.+Mangual+finished+with+13+kills+despite+a+3-2+loss.+

photo by Jessie Burton

Outside hitter Leandra Mangual spikes the ball against Oviedo on Thursday, Sept. 8. Mangual finished with 13 kills despite a 3-2 loss.

Michael Gibson, Staff Reporter

Ranked third in the Orlando Sentinel Super 16, varsity girls volleyball has a large target on their backs as they look to defend their district title. The team is currently 6-2 with nine games left until the district playoffs on Oct. 18, and the team is working hard to repeat.

“Right now, I’m not focusing on what other teams are doing. I’m focusing on what we need to do on our side of the court which is pass and set,” head coach Juanita Hitt said.

The first loss came on Aug. 24 against top-ranked Lake Highland Prep. After that, the team went on a five-game winning streak before losing to Oviedo on Sept. 8.

Led by hitter Anne-Marie Watson, who had 30+ kills over two games, the team fought in both games to an early 2-0 lead before the other teams came back and won. The team knows they need to focus on closing out games if they want to win.

“We just need to work on communication more,” hitter Leandra Mangual said. “Sometimes we just don’t have enough energy. We have talent, but we just don’t work so well with no energy.”

The backbone of winning is teamwork, and the players know how to work together and are also friends off the court. The girls are always around each other, whether it be at practice, a game or hanging out on the weekends. Seven seniors serve as role models for the younger girls and show them what it means to play as a team. The team recently added three freshmen and is helping them get adapted well.

“I feel like having a younger crowd on the team makes it more of a variety of people and skill level and it brings everyone together,” middle Samantha Cooney said.

Last year’s team won the district 6 title for the first time in school history. This season, the team looks to match that and go further in the playoffs. The goal this season is to win a state championship, and the girls are well aware of the work that it is going to take to get there.

“We all love each other and we are going to stay together to win as much as we can for the rest of the season,” Watson said.

Hitt is in her third year as the head coach, and with an impressive second season, she and the team look to top it this year. The third place ranking in Central Florida puts a heavy pressure on the team.

“We have to work as a team and communicate as a team,” setter Ashley Howard said.  “We are [a good team] skill-wise, but I’m not sure about communication-wise.”

This is the team’s second year in class 7A,  district 6 which is less competitive than class 8A, district 4. The recent change in district is due to having less students in the school. District 6 consists of schools such as Harmony and Celebration, while the previous district 2 consists of most of the SAC schools: Oviedo, Lake Brantley and Winter Springs. The team was competitive in district 2, but because of the change, they are more likely to win the district title again.

“The seniors will have a great impact on this [team],” Hitt said. “I expect them to be leaders and carry the team when we need it.”

The team has built up a lot of hype over  possibly defending their district championship.  The district semi-finals will take place on Thursday, Oct. 18. in the competiton gym. A victory is required for playoffs. The team’s seniors have led the team all season and expect a playoff run. The next game is Wednesday, Sept. 21 against Melbourne in the competition gym. The team appreciates the support of all the fans and students throughout the season.

“We needed the student section there because they really give off a lot of energy, so when they get crazy it pumps us up a lot,” Watson said.

 

This is the team’s second year in D6 which is less competitive compared to the previous D2. The recent change in district is due to having less students in the school. D6 consists of schools such as Harmony and Celebration while D2 consists of most of the SAC schools, Oviedo, Lake Brantley and Winter Springs. The team was competitive in D2, but because of the change, we are more likely to win the district title.

“The seniors will have a great impact on this [team],” Hitt said. “I expect them to be leaders and carry the team when we need it.”

The team has built up a lot of hype over the season and defending a district championship is never easy. The district semi-finals will take place Thursday, Oct. 18 in the competition gym. The winner will advance to regionals. The team’s seniors have given four years to this program and want nothing less than another title.

All season long, Hitt has maintained high expectations with the “I expect to win” attitude that pushes the team to the next level. The next game is on Wednesday, Sept. 21 against Melbourne in the competition gym. The team needs all the support it can get from the students and fans.

“We needed the student section there because they really give off a lot of energy, so when they get crazy it pumps us up a lot,” Watson said.

724 Views