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High School Volleyball - Who are teams to beat when district play opens this week?

Ocala StarBanner 10/16/2022 John Patton

Eleven volleyball teams from Marion County will compete in district tournaments this week with two goals: winning a championship and qualifying for the FHSAA playoffs, which begin next week.

Those two desired results aren’t necessarily tied to one another, as a team doesn’t have to win districts to advance. But, who doesn’t want it all?

We do know that St. John Lutheran (18-5 and ranked fourth in the Oct. 10 FHSAA Class 2A rankings) and Trinity Catholic (15-3, second in 3A) will get in, regardless of their results this week.

St. John Lutheran wins: High school volleyball: St. John Lutheran takes down The Villages in five-set thriller

Trinity Catholic sweeps: HS volleyball: Trinity Catholic sweeps Tallahassee Leon on Senior Night

Vanguard (11-11, 13th in 5A) was ranked sixth in what will be Region 1, but that was before going 3-1 to close the regular season. Still, a good week of districts would secure the Knights’ spot and could help their seed.

St. John Lutheran right side hitter Isabel Freeman (5) and St. John Lutheran outside hitter Rylee Palmateer (9) celebrate a point. After three sets, St. John lead Orange Wood two games to one. Orange Wood won the first set 25-13 while St. John won the second set 25-14 and the third, 25-23 at St. John Lutheran School in Ocala, FL on Thursday, September 8, 2022. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner] © Doug Engle, Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner St. John Lutheran right side hitter Isabel Freeman (5) and St. John Lutheran outside hitter Rylee Palmateer (9) celebrate a point. After three sets, St. John lead Orange Wood two games to one. Orange Wood won the first set 25-13 while St. John won the second set 25-14 and the third, 25-23 at St. John Lutheran School in Ocala, FL on Thursday, September 8, 2022. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]

Forest (10-10) is ranked 22nd overall in 6A, great if just the top 32 teams were selected. But brackets are filled by 8-team regions, and the top six teams in 6A are in FHS’s Region 1, where the Wildcats are ranked 10th. Competing in the same District 2-5A tournament as Vanguard, Belleview (12-12) is in a similar spot to Forest, as the Rattlers are ranked 10th in 5A, Region 1.

Meadowbrook (12-7) is eighth in 2A, Region 1 and hosts the 5-2A tourney this week, which also includes the region’s No. 2 (St. John) and No. 10 Redeemer Christian (12-8). Like FHS and BHS, the Mustangs and Lions likely can’t slip up early.

West Port (6-7, 18th in 7A, Region 1), North Marion (8-13, 14th in 4A-2), Dunnellon (3-10, 19th in 4A-2) and Lake Weir (1-15, 26th in 4A-2) will need to win their tournaments this week to reach the FHSAA playoffs.

Here is a district breakdown and local teams:

District 2-7A

West Port, #5 seed- The Wolf Pack will visit No. 4 Sanford Seminole (9-13) on Tuesday and the winner will visit top-seed Lake Mary (13-12) on Wednesday. Ayanna Blocker has totaled 15 aces in her last four matches for WPHS.

District 4-6A

Forest, #4 seed - The Wildcats will host No. 5 seed Palm Coast Matanzas (16-8) on Monday with the winner visiting classification No. 1 New Smyrna Beach (18-2) on Tuesday. Ava Keuntjes (163 assists) to Kailyn Howard (104 kills) is FHS’s main point connection.

District 5A-2

Vanguard, #2 seed- The Knights will open Tuesday with a semifinal match against No. 3 Lake City Columbia (17-8) at host and No. 1 seed Tallahassee Lincoln. The Knights have battled health issues all season, but appear strong now, and led by Sophie Reed (244 assists) and three teammates with at least 100 kills (Ruby Owen, Emma Ehmann and Lilli Hart), VHS has firepower.

Belleview, #4 seed - The Rattlers will host No. 5 Tallahassee Rickards (16-2) on Monday with a semifinal match at No. 1 seed Lincoln (16-7) on Tuesday for the winner. Natilee Collins leads BHS in service receptions (360) and digs (246), and Dakota Krajewski has passed out 264 assists.

District 5-4A

North Marion, #2 seed - The Colts have a bye before hosting No. 3 seed Crystal River (6-12) in Tuesday’s semifinal. The final will be Thursday at No. 1 seed Alachua Santa Fe. Seniors Brooke McConnell, Kendall McCubbin and Cathryn Rivera, as well as sophomore Jadair Montoya, lead the Colts.

Dunnellon, #4 seed - The Tigers will host No. 5 Eastside (1-15) on Monday with the winner traveling to defending state champ and classification No. 1 Santa Fe (23-2) in Tuesday’s second semifinal. Samantha Bernstein (269 digs) has been a strong defensive presence for DHS.

District 6-4A

Lake Weir, #7 seed - The Hurricanes will travel to No. 2 seed and tournament host The Villages (14-2) for an opening round match on Tuesday night. The winner will play the No. 3 Mount Dora-No. 6 Bushnell South Sumter (8-10) winner in Wednesday’s semis.

District 4-3A

Trinity Catholic, #1 seed - Perhaps the hottest team in the state, Trinity has won 11 straight, including handing Santa Fe its only loss to an in-state team this season. The Celtics got a big piece back six matches ago when middle blocker Rose Gravel (knee) rejoined. Don’t look for TC to lose a set this week in the tourney it hosts.

District 5-2A

St. John, #1 seed - The Saints will have a bye before facing the No. 5 Ormond Beach Calvary Christian (4-10)-No. 4 Deltona Trinity Christian (9-7) match in Thursday’s first semifinal at Meadowbrook. Rylee Palmateer (304 kills) and Sophia Ochoa (240 kills) provide a potent 1-2 punch for St. John.

Meadowbrook, #2 seed - The host Mustangs have a bye before facing the winner of No. 6 Bunnell First Baptist Academy (5-8) and No. 3 Redeemer Christian in Thursday’s semifinal nightcap. Angel Ross leads the team in kills (263) and digs (193), while Cianna Parchment is tops in assists (278).

Redeemer, #3 seed - If the Lions get by First Baptist Academy, they will face Meadowbrook with confidence, knowing they won the regular-season meeting against the Mustangs in five sets. Bella Acosta leads Redeemer in kills (179) and blocks (21), while freshman Ella Celano has 296 assists.

This article originally appeared on Ocala Star-Banner: High School Volleyball - Who are teams to beat when district play opens this week?

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