Basketball

Pensacola High volleyball hopes to end district drought

There’s been a different energy around the Pensacola High School gymnasium this fall.

Head volleyball coach Kerry Clarke has the Tigers rolling early in the season with an 11-2 record in her 20th season as head coach.

A Saturday doubleheader sweep of Laurel Hill and West Florida means the Tigers have already tied last season’s win total.

And at 3-1 so far in District 1-7A, the Tigers are right in the hunt to achieve something Pensacola High volleyball hasn’t done in 15 years.

“We’ve always been competitive. We haven’t always done so in terms of district championships, but we’re always in the top half of the district,” Clarke said. “It’s nice to finally have some talent in and keep pushing ahead hopefully.”

Pensacola High’s sole volleyball district championship came in 2001. Pickings have been a bit drier since, but this season’s success has the Tigers hoping they can end the drought.

“We’re looking forward to big things,” Clarke said. “But we’ve just got to continue to work hard. We can’t take anything for granted or get complacent since we’re doing so well early, knowing that the end is where you have to step it up.”

The 2016 Tigers are an “eager,” young team, featuring freshmen like Callie Neumann and Hannah Meyers in prominent roles.

They joined the Tigers during an offseason when the program began to focus on conditioning and weight training, a move that’s paid off with on-court results.

Pensacola High has lost just six sets thus far this season, and only one of those sets has been lost in a Tiger victory.

One of the keys in their string of wins has been libero Dina Rasick, whose steadiness has served as a sort of safety net for the Tigers’ mistakes.

“She just cleans up,” Clarke said. “We feel really comfortable with her on the court because she’s not gonna let many balls past her. She cleans up very well.”

Seniors Maya Humeda and Ra’Kell Watts have rallied these young Tigers, the latter of which using her experience as SGA secretary and co-captain of the basketball team to become a leader.

“We shouldn’t have lost the one [district] game that we did lose to Pace,” Watts said. “We didn’t play as good as we could’ve, but I feel like we’re coming together so the next time we play them it’s going to be a different story.”

Washington appears to be the gatekeeper once again between Pensacola High and its district goals. At 5-0, the Wildcats sit just ahead of Pensacola High, but the Tigers know they can hang.

“We beat them over the summer, but they’ve probably gotten better,” Watts said. “We’ve gotten better too so we’ll just see what happens.”

The Pensacola High volleyball team is off to one of the best starts in school history this season.

The Pensacola High volleyball team is off to one of the best starts in school history this season.

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