What to Watch for This Athletic Season
Rogers brewing success? Volleyball coach Ruth Ann Rogers took over Polk's volleyball program last year, having her sights set on an upward path. Last season she led the Eagles to their most successful season, totaling 15 wins, which is the most wins the program has ever accomplished. Polk will be a young group, losing a total of seven sophomores from last year's team. Along with plenty of new faces on the team this year, one thing's for sure: coach Ruth Ann won't be changing her passion and desire to win and get the NJCAA State Tournament.
Two of a kind. Last season freshmen Chloe Boehm and Lizmanelie Garcia had fantastic seasons. As a result, they were awarded Suncoast Conference Second team honors. As sophomores, they are looking to lead this group of young Eagles to a successful season.
A winning formula? Coach Bill Read will be entering his 9th season as the head coach for the women's soccer team. Just like years past, Read and his squad enter the season nationally ranked and with a bull's-eye on their backs. No worries for Read; he will find a way to get the girls to play hard, play together and win games. Similar to volleyball, Coach Read and his team have a lot of new faces. The team may have to wear name tags until October, but the Eagles expect to be in the mix for a Region 8 title.
MEN'S BASKETBALLBack to Back? The inside-outside duo of Robert Gilchrist and Sidney Sanders are back along with the core group from last year's championship team. The last time coach Furjanic and his team won back to back Suncoast Conference Championships was during the 07-08 and 08-09 seasons. Both championship teams had an inside-outside duo as well. Remember the names Lance Jeter (Nebraska) and Quincy Hankins (Nebraska)? While at Polk, this duo won a total of 51 games. This year's team has the same ingredients to make a championship team.
New faces fill void? The fans and coaches would have love to see Giovanni Zayas (St. Thomas University), Chris Noble (Pikeville), Richard Puello (Brewton Parker), Spencer Medick (Elon College), Matt Perkowski (Palm Beach Atlantic University) and Nestor Ayala (Southeastern University) suit up for the Eagles for the next 12 years. Unfortunately, the NJCAA does not grant 12-year eligibility wavers. Coming off a record breaking season, Coach Al Corbeil looks to reload with some talented freshman. Local studs Nate and Bradley May of Winter Haven High School along with pitcher Trey Norris of Frostproof should be more than up for the challenge.
In good shape? Trying to replace one All-American is difficult, but how about trying to replace two? Coach Jeff Ellis is presented with this daunting task. After graduating All-Americans Cat Floyd and Kenshyra Jackson, he is looking to take his team further. Elis, no stranger to finding talent (found current Texas A&M-Corpus Christi ace Greta Cecchetti by clicking on a thread in an online forum), has brought in a talented group of student athletes for this upcoming season. Despite the loss of the two All-Americans, the Eagles return sophomores Kelly Hunter, Molly Billue and Amber Reveron, along with a young, talented bunch in 2012.
Home sweet home. There's nothing like staying home and playing college ball in front of family and friends. Ellis was able to keep some of the best talent in Polk County home, and that's always a positive aspect when building a successful program. This year's team will feature five local players. Ellis' list of locals includes Courtney Putnam of Bartow; Brooke Threlkeld, Kristin Maynard and Lauren Chastain, all of Auburndale; and Kylee Stearns of Kathleen.