Inside Preps: Volleyball Top Player A Tough Choice
Thu. November 01, 2012 at 3:21 a.m. | By Solange Reyner
Looks like the selection for volleyball player of the year will give me headaches again.
Last year the choice was tough, and any of the top seven picked for first team had a strong case for winning it. But I ultimately went with Karla Thiele because she was the best player on the best team: George Jenkins. Plus, she carried Jenkins when the team needed it the most, not only in stats but with her leadership.
Jenkins has a very solid team again this season. The Eagles are 27-3 and last week won the Class 7A, District 7 title over Lakeland for the second year in a row. But the strength for Jenkins has been its teamwork. Rick Brown, my colleague who watched that match, said there really wasn't one standout on Jenkins' team. I've watched two Jenkins matches and have the same feeling. Erin Wibert is solid, as is Kayla Monsanto and Amanda Thiele.
Lakeland has three very good players, too: setter Caitlin Conner and hitters Kali Boatwright and Kelly Germain. Boatwright, a sophomore, is dynamic and was last year, too, and that's why she was picked as a first-team selection. She was close to getting player of the year, too.
Winter Haven has Katora Roberts as its leader, and even though she sat out five matches because of concussion-like symptoms just before the district tournament started, she's still sixth in the county in kills with 213.
Then you have Kelsee Cullop and Nikki Peace at Auburndale. Those girls led Auburndale to the Class 5A, District 9 title last week and took the Bloodhounds to the playoffs for the first time since 1998.
I haven't seen Tenoroc's Hannah Gary play but I've heard good things about her, too. She's second in the county in kills with 274 but won't be competing in the playoffs because her squad lost to Lake Wales in the district semifinals.
Then you've got Kari Hopkins of Lake Gibson. She helped the Braves really turn things around this season – Lake Gibson was 14-6 before losing in the Class 6A regional quarterfinals Tuesday night. The Braves finished 5-14 last year.
Then you've got the small school standouts.
There's Taylor Ashcraft at All Saints, Brittany Nelson at Victory Christian – both teams have been in the Class 2A, District 7 title game the past two years – and Nathalie Rosado of McKeel Academy.
Rosado has 400 digs and 236 kills, Ashcraft 257 kills and 168 digs and Nelson 181 kills with a hitting percentage of 25.
"There's some good players out there," said Bruce Guth, the volleyball coach at All Saints' Academy.
"That decision is going to be tough."
Last year's pick came down to the wire, and I had coaches who had no dogs in the race put it to a final vote. That helped, and it should again this year. But maybe my choice will get easier as the postseason progresses because a good player will, most of the time, lead her team to more victories.