Ridaught: Volleyball preseason begins Monday

Santa Fe' senior Joselynn Sanjurjo (left) returns to the two-time defending 4A state champion Raiders for another run at a title.
Joselynn Sanjurjo (left) had 182 kills last year as a junior for the Santa Fe (Alachua) Raiders (30-2), who won their second straight Class 4A state title
Photo by C.J. Gish

The high school volleyball season officially begins Monday with the start of preseason games.

Last year a total of 11 teams in the Mainstreet Daily News coverage area advanced to the 2022 FHSAA Volleyball state playoffs.

It was highlighted by Santa Fe’s second straight state championship.

Jalyn Stout repeated as the Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Volleyball
 after leading the Raiders (30-2) to the Class 4A state title. She finished the season with 563 kills, 368 assists, 245 digs, 55 aces and a .433 hitting percentage.

The Coastal Carolina University signee has graduated, along with key players like Anisa Dorlouis (246 kills, 446 assists) and Miya Thomas (471 digs), but Santa Fe should be in the mix again for another postseason appearance in Class 4A.

One of the teams to watch this season is Gainesville High School, which lost at Mosley (Lynn Haven) in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.

The Hurricanes (20-8), who won 20 games last year for the first time in 18 years, return 13 varsity players including three Division-I commits in Brooklyn Tealer (USC), and All Area selections Meme Davis (Mercer) and Charlotte Gravlee (Columbia).

Davis had a team-leading 265 kills and 338 digs last year, while Gravelee finished second behind Davis in kills (201) and led the team with 73 blocks.

GHS, which lost at New Smyrna Beach in last year’s Class 6A-District 4 championship game, will get a big boost from Tealer, who missed most of the regular season due to injury.

P.K. Yonge only had two seniors on last year’s team which finished 14-11 and advanced to the Class 3A state playoffs before falling at eventual state semifinalist Trinity Catholic (Ocala).

The Blue Wave swept Bradford (Starke) in last year’s 3A-District 3 playoffs.

Oak Hall’s season ended at 24-5 and one game shy of back-to-back state semifinal appearances in Class 2A.

However, the Eagles return almost all of their starters, including Cassidy McDonald (667 assists, 122 kills, 30 blocks, 167 digs, 194 SP, 64 aces), Ave Scorpio (207 kills, 31 blocks), Sarah Miller (174 digs, 60 SP, 17 aces), and Pene Moser (407 kills, 30 blocks, 263 digs, 173 SP, 35 aces).

Moser is recovering from a torn ACL but she will probably start playing later in the season.

“I think we will probably have some struggles finding our offensive identity early in the season but I think our unrelenting defensive efforts may help us frustrate our opposition,” said Perry McDonald, who enters his fourth season as head coach at Oak Hall and his 19th overall. “If Pene Moser is able to return midway through the year she could provide an incredible boost as this team matures.”

Williston and Union County (Lake Butler) both advanced to the Class 1A state semifinals.

The Red Devils (19-11) lost in four sets at eventual state champion Liberty County, while the Tigers (20-8) were swept at Baker.

Grace Dola (252 kills, 226 digs), Morgan Geiger (245 digs), and Shayna Geiger (290 assists) are back for Williston, which advanced to its first final four since 2017.

Williston has experience and depth at every position.

Head coach Kevin Tiller, who enters his second season with the Red Devils, has high expectations for 2023.

“Take it one step further and make it to the state championship final and gun for a state title,” Tiller said. “We have 10 seniors on our varsity team this year so no extra motivation is needed for a huge core of our varsity team.”

Union County must replace All Area selection Jaycee Davis (372 kills, 355 digs, 61 aces).

“Losing Jaycee Davis will change the dynamic of the team,” said Tifani Knox, who enters her second season at Union County. “She led the team in a positive way. We will miss her ability to get a side out when we needed one. Watching to see who will fill that spot will be interesting.”

However, the Tigers do return five starters, including middle Jailyn Simmons (168 kills, 46 blocks), libero Jurney Crim (292 digs, 39 aces), and setter/defensive specialist Jordan Hendricks (205 digs, 303 assists).

“This team has a lot of talent and experience,” Knox said. “If they work together and communicate there is a great amount of potential for this season.”

Dixie County (Cross City), Branford, and Newberry also made the Class 1A state playoffs last year.

The first regular season playing date is Monday, Aug. 21.

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