The 2019 season Girls Volleyball season got underway in earnest this week in Osceola County.
With a strong returning core of returning players, teams from St. Cloud High and Osceola High School look poised to make another run to the state playoffs this season.
St. Cloud, 21-8 last year under Ettie Singleton, return five starters in 2019. Those players include 5-10 middle hitter/defensive specialist Abbie Tutor (276 total kills, .304 hitting percentage), 6-2 middle hitter Eno Inyang (274 kills, .354 hitting percentage) and assist leader Kaylee Tutor (21.6 assists per game).
Starters Brooke Singleton (Defensive Specialist/Outside Hitter) and Jazim Santiago (Setter) also return. Newcomer Paige Alise (Sophomore, 5-10, Middle/Outside Hitter) is expected to contribute.
Last year, the Lady Bulldogs advanced to FHSAA Regional play as District Runner-up before dropping a Regional Quarterfinal game to East Lake in straight sets. Although St. Cloud returns five starters, the roster is still relatively young as four of those five starters are underclassmen. The roster features just one senior in Abbie Tutor.
“We’re excited about the coming season,” Singleton noted. “Whenever you have that many starters returning, you have to be optimistic. Our goal is to just keep getting better from match-to-match and practice-to-practice, hopefully win the conference and build some momentum for the post-season.”
The Osceola Lady Cowboys also return a veteran team under head coach Carrie Palmi. Osceola went 21-7 last year and captured a district championship before bowing out to state power Vero Beach (3-0) in a Regional Quarterfinal match.
The Lady Kowboys welcome back tri-captains Janleen DeJesus (Sr., 5-7, setter),
Allison Palmi (Sr., 5-9, Outside Hitter) and Malina Spencer (Sr., 6-2, Middle Blocker).
Those three players led Osceola in kills last season, with Palmi leading the way with 475, followed by Spencer (225) and DeJesus (100), who was also second in assists with 339.
Osceola will also feature three freshmen – Eimy Negron, Kaitlyn Taylor, and Ahnika Johnston – who enter the season with significant club volleyball experience.
Under second year head coach Eric Capestany, the Tohopekaliga Eagles will look to improve off 3-10 record during the school’s first season of existence.
“We think we will be much-improved this season,” Capestany said. “We have two all-conference players returning in Jeila Fullerton and Arianna Warren they will provide us with leadership and we also have some good young players coming in too.”
Competing in District 6 this season will be Pedro Davila’s Celebration Storm. The Storm finished last season at 9-10, losing to St. Cloud in the first game of the district playoffs.
Davila has several promising players returning in 2019, including sophomore Evaisabel Davila-Morlaes (124 kills, 76 service aces), Junior Jada Tarnowski (111 kills and sophomore Paola Fregonezi (140 kills).
In District 10 play, Harmony Head Coach Travis Foster returns a veteran team that will feature five seniors and three juniors that went 13-9 a season ago. Top returnees for Lady Longhorns include Libero/Defensive Specialist Yuliedy Torres-Vargas (5-4, Jr.) and Outside Hitter/Defensive Specialist Autumn Rogers (5-9, Junior).
Aubrey Lowe takes over the Poinciana program that went 9-9 last season. Although the Eagles were hit hard by graduation, Lowe says they are looking forward to the challenge of improving on last year’s mark. Top returning players include setter Kasemanne Knechtel. Outside hitter Kamryn Richards and right-side hitter Akemah Isaac.
“Even though we lost five seniors from last year, we are excited about this season. This group of girls have been playing together since their freshman year and there is a strong bond between them,” Lowe said. In volleyball, that can make a world of difference. Our goal as a team is to play with a new found intensity and determination.”
Gateway went 9-10 last season, but returns promising players in Libero Alandra Colon and outside hitter Naigelys Munoz; while Liberty also expects to improve on its 2-9 season from 2018.
City of Life Head Coach Lynnsey Glunt will have the youngest team in the county, as the Lady Warriors roster features just one senior in Janellise Marty and will count two freshmen, two eighth graders and a seventh grader on its 10-person varsity roster.
City of Life went 11-14 last season but also finished second in its district and advanced to the Class 2A Regional Semifinals where they lost a heart-breaking 3-2 decision to Morningside Academy (Port St. Lucie).
The girls volleyball season runs through mid October. District tournaments will be held Oct. 14-18; with Regionals slated Oct. 25-Nov. 5. State semifinals will be on campus sites on Nov. 9. With the all-classification state championship games being played on. Nov. 15-16 at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Ft. Myers.