Local Sports

High expectations

— If team chemistry counts for anything, the Avon Park High School volleyball team should have a very successful season.

Most of the Red Devils have played together since seventh grade and they’ve had the same coach. Avon Park coach Shane Wirries, in his second year at the helm of the Red Devils volleyball program, was also their middle school coach.

“These are my girls,” Wirries said. “I’ve had them on my team in middle school, junior varsity and now varsity. I definitely have a special bond with this group. I know what they can do and what they have done so far. I’m excited about the season.”

The team welcomes new assistant coach William Eastburn. He will assist both junior varsity and varsity.

He is a physical therapist that loves the sport and the team loves having him on board.

The volleyball team hasn’t had much time together this summer but Wirries is confident that his team will go far and hopes to win the Class 4A-District 9 championship this season.

The Red Devils lost to Lake Placid in the district finals last year and qualified for a state playoff berth.

Lake Placid will be their main competition again this year. Both teams open their schedule with the Preseason Classic hosted by Sebring on Tuesday night.

“I believe we are playing Lake Placid first in Sebring’s Preseason tournament,” said Wirries. “That will be a deciding match. I know it’s just a preseason match but it means a lot, it will give us an idea where we stand in the district right off the bat.”

Avon Park has several returning players this year on a veteran team. Sholanda Jordon, Ashlee Robitaille and Imani Tate will be playing outside. Harley Huntringer and Otisha Smith will play middle. Aaliya Eastburn will be playing right side.

Genesis Moro will be setter. Krystal Rivera and Keunna Robinson played on varsity at the very end of the season last year and will remain on varsity this season.

Rivera will play libero and Robinson will play outside. Moro played for Sebring her junior year of high school and moved back to Avon Park for her senior year. Moro played for Avon Park her freshman and sophomore years.

“We have a good strong group,” Wirries said. “We have great chemistry and we love the sport. The girls don’t like losing because they’re not used to it. This is a winning team. It’s all about enjoying the experience and I make sure the girls know that. I don’t mind losing as long as we know we did our best. We have to live up to our potential.”

Wirries said if he has any problems with attitude, injury, or anything else that may come up he isn’t worried. There are very solid players who can move up to take their place.

On the junior varsity team there are several girls capable of playing up, but the varsity squad is so talented they will gain valuable experience on the junior varsity team.

“I have 13 girls on junior varsity and varsity,” said Wirries. “There were that many good girls that tried out. I had to cut a lot that would of stayed on any other team. That’s a very good problem to have. There was a lot of talent but we didn’t have the room to keep them all.”

Aaliya Eastburn, who is one of the team leaders, went to several volleyball camps during the summer and came back to teach the other girls. She is always learning everything she can and is always looking to improve not only herself but the team as well.

Imani Tate is a leader that the other girls lookup. Both Eastburn and Tate are seniors this year. The team is still missing a few players who are still on vacation so they haven’t named any captains yet. “It will be exciting,” said Wirries “I’m looking forward to a great year. We are very competitive and you never know what’s going to happen. It’s going to be interesting.”

Avon Park plays Lake Placid at 6 p.m. in Tuesday’s first game, while Sebring takes on Frostproof in the second game.