Experience has Wave riding high in volleyball

Experience has Wave riding high in volleyball

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Experience has Wave riding high in volleyball

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Of the four Fort Myers High School senior volleyball players, none of them plan to play in college, and none of them have won a state championship.

Some of them have finished oh-so-close.

When this season’s Class 6A state volleyball tournament ends with the title game at 4:05 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13 at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Fort Myers seniors Whitney Letourneau, Kenzi Gustason, Emily Gear and Danielle Matte hope to finish their careers by achieving what five preceding Green Wave teams under coach Stephanie Martin could not.

They want to finish with a state title not just for themselves but for their coach.

“We’re very close to Steph,” said Gustason, the team’s libero, or defensive specialist. “To get that for her, it would mean so much to us. It would make for an end to a perfect season.”

The Green Wave, with a 16-2 record, already have garnered some national attention. For the first time in program history, the Green Wave have a national ranking.

“I think it’s because we’ve been in the state finals the past three years,” Martin said.

After a fourth-place showing in a strong field earlier this season in the Tampa Berkley Prep tournament, Fort Myers found itself ranked No. 81 in the nation in the prepvolleyball.com Century Club Top 100.

“We didn’t celebrate or anything, but we were all talking about it,” senior outside hitter Whitney Letourneau said.

Only two other teams in Florida are ranked: No. 15 Bishop Moore and No. 78 Venice, which Fort Myers is slated to play Tuesday night on the road.

“We had a core coming back from last year, which always helps,” Martin said. “They do the little things right.”

Fort Myers plays at Bishop Verot next Thursday.

First, however, the Green Wave play Saturday in Gainesville against Gainesville High and the team that ended their season last year in the title match, Tallahassee Leon.

How Fort Myers fares over the next week will gauge where the team stands when the district tournament begins the week of Oct. 22.

“We have a good mixture of players,” Letourneau said. “We have all the pieces. Some teams get all the pieces but can’t put them together.

“There are a lot of expectations from us from the other teams.”

Letourneau said all of the players know their roles and play within them on this team. She ranks second on the Green Wave with 92 digs. Gustason, who can be seen diving on the court often each match, leads the team with 131 digs.

“I’m on the short side,” said Gustason, who is 5-foot-3. “So that kind of comes with it.”

Matte leads the team with 387 assists.

Gear has 54 kills.

“We support each other,” Gear said. “We all come together as a team. We’re always there for each other.”

The Green Wave have help from a number of underclassmen as well.

Junior Chelsea Oliver, who is 6-3, leads the team with 138 kills and 37 blocks.

Sophomore Briana Correa ranks second in kills with 116.

Sophomore Alexis Athens has a team-best 34 aces.

“Offensively, we’re not overpowering,” Martin said. “With Chelsea, she brings power at the net. Other teams have to alter their game plan because of her.

“With Kenzi and Whitney, they can get to the ball and get the ball to our setter. We’re very good on defense.”

Matte said the team unity carried over from last season. The setter wants just one thing to change: finishing second.

“We were really upset,” Matte said of losing to Leon in the title match last year. “A lot of it was because of all the seniors who were leaving. Now I realize that I don’t want to have that feeling that they had.”

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