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The Pinellas County Volleyball Player of the Week

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L Ryleigh Powers, Sr., Tarpon Springs

As a captain this season, Ryleigh Powers has taken on more of a leadership role. She also has displayed her versatility, filling in as an outside hitter due to injuries.

But her primary role is on the defensive end. 

A three-year starter, Powers is one of the area’s best at keeping the ball in play. It is a skill she has developed since she started playing volleyball when she was 11 years old. 

Last week, Powers recorded 40 digs in 43 receptions in a five-set loss to Osceola. She has a combined 351 digs in the last two seasons. 

Powers excels off the court, too. A student in the veterinary program at the school, she spends her spare time volunteering at the Day and Evening Veterinary Clinic in Palm Harbor. 

Fans were impressed. Powers received 43 percent of the votes (1,813) in the Pinellas County volleyball player of the week poll to beat out St. Petersburg’s Jenna Davis, who had 34 percent (1,446 votes).

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Volleyball: Plant’s Lily Frierson, Sarah Reiss win 7A state honors

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The awards are starting to pile up for Plant’s volleyball team.

Lily Frierson, who helped the Panthers win their first state title since 2010, was named the Class 7A state player of the year by the Florida Dairy Farmers. 

The senior outside hitter finished with 267 kills, 309 digs, 23 aces and a .335 hitting percentage.Her offensive firepower was a big reason reason Plant was able to bounce back from a loss in the district final and win four of its five playoff matches on the road. 

Plant coach Sarah Reiss also was named the 7A state coach of the year. Reiss (formerly Kirkwood), who starred at Plant before going on to play at Virginia, returned to her alma mater to take over the program. She was already used to winning state titles. She won three straight (2001-03) as a player with the Panthers and guided the Spence School (Manhattan, NY) to a state title in 2013.

This season, Reiss helped a program that had been to state semifinals each of the previous three three seasons, take the next step and win what had been an elusive state title. 

The winners in each classification were selected through voting from a statewide panel of volleyball coaches and media representatives. They are now eligible to be named the overall winner in the state, which will go through another round of voting and likely be announced later this month. 

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Volleyball: Calvary Christian’s Taylor Parks, Kim Whitney take 3A state honors

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Calvary Christian’s volleyball team is starting to accumulate the accolades befitting a state champion. 

Taylor Parks, who led the Warriors  to their first title last month, was named the Class 3A state player of the year by the Florida Dairy Farmers. 

The sophomore setter finished the season  with 1,076 assists, 89 kills, 283 digs and a .324 hitting percentage while leading Calvary Christian through a brutal playoff bracket that included matches against Bishop McLaughlin, Tampa Prep, Ocala Trinity Catholic and Miami Westminster Christian. 

Calvary Christian coach Kim Whitney also was named the 3A state coach of the year. The former Clearwater Central Catholic star played four years at Kansas State and spent another 16 playing professionally (two years indoors, 14 years beach). She also was a coach at Pasco-Hernando State College in 2010 when the program won a national title. 

This season, Whitney guided a program that had never been past the region semifinals before to its first state title. And the Warriors earned it by beating three teams ranked among the top 35 nationally in the postseason, including two via sweeps. 

The winners in each classification were selected through voting from a statewide panel of volleyball coaches and media representatives. They are now eligible to be named the overall winner in the state, which will go through another round of voting and likely be announced later this month. 

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Volleyball: Plant rallies to win 7A state title

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Sarah Reiss (formerly Kirkwood) won three state titles (2001-03) as a player at Plant. 

On Thursday, she had a chance to win another one, this time as the coach of her alma mater. 

The Panthers, who had been to the state semifinals, each of the past three seasons, took the next step by reaching the final for the first time since 2018. Plant also was trying to win its first state title since 2010. 

The program achieved its goal the hard way, rallying from a 2-1 deficit to win the Class 7A title in five sets over Windermere. 

It was the 11th title in school history, which ranks fourth overall in state history. 

Most of the players were already used to winning titles at the club level. Lily Frierson, Reese Friar and Sophia Kotsovolos were all on the OTVA team that won an AAU national title this offseason.

But their high school seasons came up short of winning what had been an elusive title. 

This time, they ended years of frustration on volleyball’s biggest stage. 

Throughout the postseason, the Panthers were able to cruise. They dropped just one set in their first four playoff matches. On Thursday, they were tested against Windermere, a program that had never made it past the region semifinals before this season. 

After winning the first set in the title match, Plant dropped the next two. But there was no panic. The Panthers simply bore down, dominating the fourth set to give them much-needed momentum heading into the fifth and final set. 

In the end, their postseason experience paid off with a 23-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-13, 15-9 victory.  Jennifer Rayburn had 52 assists and 11 digs. Lily Frierson finished with 23 digs and 17 kills. Maggie Dostic ended up with 21 kills and 14 digs. Reese Friar totaled 15 kills and five blocks. And Bella Lee recorded 16 digs.

Plant joined Calvary Christian as the two bay area champions. The Warriors won the 3A title, their first in school history. 

Elite company

Hillsborough County has been dominant in volleyball. The proof is in the number of state titles. Three schools — Tampa Prep, Berkeley Prep and Plant — were already ranked among the top four in the state in titles won. The Panthers added another one to their total on Thursday.

SchoolTitles wonYears won
Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons201975-79, 1984-89, 1992-96, 1998, 2006, 2010, 2015
Berkeley Prep161986, 1988-93, 1995 (3A), 1997-99, 2003, 2009-11, 2017
Tampa Prep 151980-85 , 1987 , 1991-92, 1994, 1996-98, 2001, 2004
Plant 111975-76, 2001-03, 2006-10, 2021
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