2021 Girls’ Volleyball Preview

Elayna Johnson spikes the ball over the net during a drill in practice at Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala, Fla. on Wednesday, August 25, 2021. Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

Home » News
Posted August 26, 2021 | By James Blevins, james@ocalagazette.com

Elayna Johnson spikes the ball over the net during a drill in practice at Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala on Aug. 25. Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

The Trinity Catholic High School girls’ volleyball team won a state title a year ago.

Vanguard nearly did the same, earning a coveted place among the state final four in 2020.

What’s in store for prep volleyball teams in 2021? Only time and a lot of well-placed service points will tell.

Here’s a look at how local squads played last year, and what they’re looking to accomplish on the court this year:

Trinity Catholic

In 2020, Trinity Catholic made short work of No. 2 seed Taylor in the District 3A-3 semifinals, 3-0, before winning the whole tournament against No. 4 seed Father Lopez in another three-set shutout.

The Lady Celtics would then make a beeline to the Class 3A state title. The Celtics beat Orangewood Christian (3-0) in the 3A Region 1 quarterfinals, Trinity Prep (3-0) in the semis, Pensacola Catholic (3-1) in the regional final, taking home the 3A-1 title.

In the 3A State Final Four, Trinity Catholic beat Bishop McLaughlin Catholic in a close game, 3-2, to advance to the state final, which it won much easier in another shutout, defeating Westminster Christian 3-0.

Head Coach Jeff Reavis understands that his team faces expectations coming into 2021, but expectations and pressure work hand in hand for his team, and they’re ready for both.

“They’ve earned the right to be in that conversation,” said Reavis. “And that in itself is a great thing. If we didn’t have that pressure, or those expectations, none of this would be possible, and it wouldn’t be fun.”

Reavis said that having a target on their backs, as returning state champs, is something that they embrace.

“It makes us come to practice and work harder every day. So for us, I think it’d be different if we didn’t have that target. It’s obviously special [winning a state title] and we don’t take it for granted at all,” said Reavis.

District: 3A-3

Head Coach: Jeff Reavis, 7th season

Last Season: 18-6 overall, District 3A-3 champions, Region 3A-1 champions, 3A State Final Four, Class 3A State Champions

Key Returners: Kiana Laborde, junior, OH; Amelia Fitzpatrick, junior, OPP; McKenna Yates, sophomore, L/DS; Elayna Johnson, sophomore, MB/RS; Rose Gravel, sophomore, OPP/MB; Emily Hirst, junior, MB; Camden Crews, senior, DS/L; Olivia Grantham, senior, DS/L

Key Newcomers: Delaney Baker, freshman, OH

Key Losses: Izabelle Sanchez and Chloe Teter 


For Head Coach Luis Perez, his goal for the Lady Knights in 2021 is simple: Have fun. No matter the result on the scoreboard.

“It is not just about winning and losing,” said Perez. “It’s about going out on the court with our heads held high and having fun, even if we lose.”

In 2020, Vanguard defeated No. 3 seed Belleview in the District 5A-5 quarterfinals, and then defeated No. 1 seed Lake Weir to win the district championship.

From there, Vanguard earned a spot in the Class 5A State Final Four: it won its regional quarterfinal match against Lake Minneola and its regional semifinal match against Pine Ridge in three straight sets, respectively.

In similar fashion, the Knights won the 5A Region 2 final over Fivay, 3-0, as well.  In the state final four, Vanguard met its match, losing to Ponte Verde, the eventual Class 5A state champion, in three straight set.

“That was a great accomplishment for the girls,” Perez said of reaching the state final four. “We’ve been rebuilding the team for a long time after losing eight seniors, so last year’s team was made up mostly of freshman and sophomores—and they’re all returning this year.”

Vanguard competes in the same district as Belleview and Lake Weir.

District: 5A-5

Head Coach: Luis Perez, 2nd season

Last Season: 15-3 overall record, 5A Region 2 champions, 5A State Final Four

Key Returners: Emma Ehmann, junior, OH; Ruby Owen, junior, OH/MB/OPPS; Sophie Reed, junior, S/OPPS; Adyla Kerley, DS; Christina Light, senior, MB

Key Newcomers: Sarah Beville, freshman, OH/OPPS; Taylor Cady, freshman, MB/OPPS; Lillian Hart, freshman, MB/OPPS

Key Losses: None.


The Lady Rattlers lost their opening game in the 2020 5A District 5 tournament as the No. 3 seed, losing in three straight sets to the No. 2 seed and eventual district champion Vanguard.

In 2021, Belleview will face several tough games during its regular season campaign, including Vanguard at home on Sept. 28 and Trinity Catholic on the road on Sept. 29.

If the Lady Rattlers qualify for the postseason, they will more than likely face Vanguard once again in the district tournament

Belleview started the 2021 season off well with a win in its first game against Leesburg 3-0 on Aug. 24.

District: 5A-5

Head Coach: Lindsay Seek, 2nd season

Last Season: 4-9 overall record

Key Returners: Luclia Cheesman, senior, MB/OH; Kyla Zisa, senior, MB/RS; Brooke McDonald, senior, DS/L; Haley Wooten, senior, DS/L

Key Newcomers: Kahleah Lancaster, freshman, MH/OH

Key Losses: N/A


As the No. 1 seed, Dunnellon had a bye in the 2020 District 4A-5 quarterfinals. But then ran into No. 5 seed Crystal River who beat them in the semifinals in three straight sets.

The Tigers are hoping to turn their fortunes around in 2021.

Dunnellon hopes to score some early wins at home against Wildwood on Sept. 2 and on the road against West Port on Sept. 7.

District: 4A-4

Head Coach: Ashlee Winn, 2nd season

Last Season: 1-12 overall record


Head Coach Jimmy Collins expects his Wildcats team to challenge for a conference, district and state title in 2021.

Forest returns all of its starters from a year ago, including “Co-Marion County Player of the Year” Emma Truluck.

“We will play the most difficult schedule this season in all my years at Forest,” said Collins of the 2021-22 season. “But our program has the best fans, and we have the best support of any team in the state. Our ‘Squad’ of students is incredible and gives our team [what we need].”

In 2020, Forest won its 6A District 5 semifinal match against No. 3 seed Buchholz 3-1 (25-13, 22-25, 25-11, 25-22). They then defeated the No. 1 seed Gainesville 3-0 (25-18, 25-19, 25-23) to win the District 6A-5 trophy.

The Wildcats went from there straight to the 6A Region 2 championship match—winning in the regional quarterfinals against South Lake (3-0) and in the regional semis against Gainesville (again) in a forfeit—only to lose its first match of the season in a highly competitive game against St. Petersburg 3-1 (25-23, 25-22, 20-25, 27-25).

Forest’s first match of the 2021 regular season was a loss against Santa Fe 3-0 on the road.

District: 6A-3

Head Coach: James Collins, 12th Season

Last Season: 16-1 overall record, 6A Region 2 runners-up

Key Returners: Sheridan Turner, seniors, S; Abby Eckenroth, senior, RS; Mackenzie Williams, senior, M; Paris Masi, senior, MH; Emma Truluck, senior, OH; Maddi Jarold, senior, L; Aubrey O’Cull, senior, MH

Key Newcomers: Kaylin Howard, sophomore, Mackenzie Danner, sophomore, S; Ava Kuentjes, sophomore, DS/S

Key Losses: None

Lake Weir

Lake Weir was the No. 1 seed going into the 5A District 5 championship, but eventually lost to Vanguard in the championship game in three straight sets.

The Lady Hurricanes would forfeit its next game against Pine Ridge in the Class 5A regional quarterfinal.

In her first season as head coach, Jenna Duplessis, who is replaces Ashley Hubner, recognizes that with a lot of seniors comes a lot of expectations, and she’s determined to help her team realize their ambitions.

“They had a great season last year,” said Duplessis. “But I have a lot of seniors this year, which is exciting, and all of them are absolutely phenomenal.”

With the help of Assistant Coach Brittney Velez, Duplessis and company is approaching 2021 with renewed vigor.

“We’re working hard and excited to be back out there on the court,” said Duplessis. “This is an amazing program to be a part of.”

Lake Weir shares a district this year with Belleview and Vanguard.

District: 5A-5

Head Coach: Jenna Duplessis, 1st season

Last Season: 1-13 overall record

North Marion

In 2020, the Lady Colts started the District 4A-5 tournament with a win against the No. 6 seed Citrus, winning decisively 3-0.

But North Marion would ultimately lose to Crystal River in the District 4A-5 championship, 3-1.

During the 2021 regular season, North Marion, which shares a district with Dunnellon, will face the Lady Tigers on Sept. 23 on the road.

District: 4A-4

Head Coach: Richard Guerrero, 2nd season

Last Season: 8-7 overall record, District 4A-5 runners-up

Key Returners: Kinley Manning, senior, OH/MH/DS; Alexa Switzer, senior, MH/MB/DS; Emma Sinkler, senior, DS/L/S; Lainee Hall, junior, OH/MB; Kendall McCubbin, junior, MH/MB; Brooke McConnell, junior, S/OPP; Catherine Rivera, junior, DS/L

Key Newcomers: Jadair Gutierrez, freshman, OH/MB/DS; Kensey Thomas, sophomore, OH/MH/MB; Ainsley Grubbs, sophomore, MH/OPP; Jayda Kinsler, sophomore, S/OPP/DS

West Port

West Port competed in 7A District 5 and finished the 2020 season with a 7-6 overall record.

The No. 2 seed Wolf Pack lost their opening match against the No. 3 seed East Ridge Knights in the District 7A-5 semifinal. East Ridge would go on to win the district championship.

In 2021, West Port has a stacked first few weeks.

The Wolf Pack will start the regular season on the road against Forest on Aug. 30. They will then face Dunnellon, Sept. 7, Belleview, Sept. 9, North Marion, Sept. 14 and Lake Weir, Sept. 15.

West Port follows that home stand with road trips against Vanguard on Sept. 16, St. John Lutheran on Sept. 20, and Belleview on Sept. 21.

District: 7A-1

Head Coach: Edwin Montalvo, 6th season

Last Season: 7-6 overall record

Key Returners: Ekathya Melendez, senior, OH/DS; Paola Briceno-Lago, senior, OH/OPP; Mileydie Maysonet-Ortiz, senior, S/RS; Yarielis Melendez, senior, OH; Makenzie Fricton, senior, MB/MH; Victoria Goodrich, junior, DS/L; Pressley Sutter, junior, S/RS; Paige Farouq, junior, OPP/DS; Taylor Baker, junior, OPP/RS/MB; Elayne Arenas, junior, MH/MB

Key Newcomers: Kendall Smith, sophomore, OH/L; Taylor Demankoswksi, sophomore, L/DS

Ocala Christian Academy

After finishing the 2020 season with a 1-8 record, the Ocala Christian Academy is looking to course-correct its program in 2021.

The Crusaders lost their first game of the regular season against Countryside Christian (Gainesville) 0-3 on Aug. 24 (13-25, 4-25, 10-25).

OCA plays Peniel Baptist Academy next on Aug. 30 on the road.

The Crusaders are looking for younger players to step up and fill much-needed roles in 2021, as Allison Forsyth-Abney takes the reins in her first season as head coach.

District: Florida Christian Division (Independent)

Head Coach: Allison Forsyth-Abney, 1st season

Last Season: 1-8 overall record

Key Returners: Natalie Reffner, senior; Cori Williams, senior; Alexa Botticello, junior

Key Newcomers: Brianna Ray, sophomore; Kadyn Tuman, sophomore

St. John Lutheran

St. John Lutheran defeated No. 5 seed Saint Francis Catholic 3-0 and No. 1 seed Redeemer Christian 3-1 to earn a spot in the 2020 District 2A-4 championship match, which they would win in an epic final tiebreaker set, 3-2 (25-18, 22-25, 25-22, 11-25, 15-10).

Despite winning the district title, the Saints would ultimately fall to St. Johns Country Day in the Class 2A Region 1 quarterfinal game 3-1.

After winning its 2021 regular season opener against Seven Rivers Christian 3-0 on Aug. 24 (25-10, 25-10, 25-22) St. John will play Seven Rivers once again on Aug. 31.

District: 2A-9

Head Coach: Brad Ewers, 2nd season

Last Season: 14-6 overall record, District 2A-4 champions

Key Returners: Samantha Kreitenstein, senior, OH/OPP; Logan Wilemon, senior, MH; Saylor Spears, junior, S/OPP

Key Newcomers: Sophia Ochoa, freshman, OH; Kathleen Pittman, sophomore, OPP; Payton Nazzari, freshman, DS/L; Isabel Freeman, Sophomore, OPP/OH; Angely Antonio, freshman, DS; Ashley Downs, freshman, S/DS; Rylee Palmateer, freshman, S/OH; Isabelle Baluyot, freshman, DS/L

newspaper icon

Support community journalism

The first goal of the Ocala Gazette is to deliver trustworthy local journalism so corruption, misinformation and abuse are not hidden from the public or unchallenged.

We count on community support to continue this important work. Please donate or subscribe: