ESPN RISE takes a look at the teams to watch this month in this area:
Girls' Volleyball -- Lake Highland Prep
Charmaine Cox has built a volleyball dynasty at LHP, leading the team to a 389-112 record coming into this season. The 18th-year coach attributes the Highlanders'success to a tough schedule, the right priorities and a program that starts early. "We never focus on wins and losses," she says. "We focus a lot on team chemistry and building character, and winning just seems to be the outcome."Winners of four straight Class 3A state titles, the team entered the season ranked No. 13 in the country by PrepVolleyball.com. Boston College-bound setter Krissy Mussenden, one of the nation's top players, racked up 815 assists last season. "She's just a smart player, reads the court very well and makes good decisions," Cox says. Fellow senior captains Megan Gaughn and Amanda Saxton also have loads of experience. Gaughn, who earned All-State first team honors last year, is a powerful 5-foot-10 outside hitter. Saxton, a third team All-State pick at middle blocker, matches up with the opposing team's strongest hitters. "She protects the net for us and sets the bar as far as work ethic goes," Cox says. Junior outside hitter and future captain Alexendra Franceschi was an All-State second team pick last season, while Taylor Sherwin, a 6-foot sophomore, could soon be regarded as one of the top setters in the country. The potent lineup has the Highlanders in position to capture another state crown. "That is our goal,"Cox says, "to continue the winning tradition."
Boys' Basketball -- Oldsmar Christian
At 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, senior Chris Perez is a powerful guard with the ability to both score and distribute. Perez, who earned All-State second team honors after averaging 29.5 points per game last season, impressed at the Reebok All-American camp in July and is being recruited by several Division I schools. Harald Doby, a 6-foot-6 forward, is reportedly receiving interest from schools like Clemson and South Carolina while Eric Segert, a senior guard, has gotten looks from Idaho State and Longwood.
Girls' Soccer -- Newsome
The Wolves look for a deep postseason run after losing in the state semis and regional finals, respectively, the last two years. Senior midfielder Ana Cate had nine goals and six assists to earn All-Hillsborough first team honors from The Tampa Tribune last season, while Navy-bound goalie Kendall Graham posted 14 shutouts. Seniors Ashley Evers, a midfielder and USF commit, and defender Kayli Kishel were second team All-Hillsborough. Junior Hannah Rainey, Graham's backup, keys the Wolves' front line.
Wrestling -- Kissimmee Osceola
Pete Baldwin went 58-3 and won a state title at 119 pounds to lead Osceola to a second-place finish at last year's Class 3A state meet. Now a sophomore, Baldwin leads a talented but young Kowboys team. Also returning is Levi Clemons, a junior who captured the 171-pound title at the USA Wrestling Cadet National Greco-Roman Championships in Fargo, N.D., in July. Gabe Bird, a junior who won 50 matches, sophomore E.J. Jimenez, and seniors Matt Jones, Wiston Flores and Matt Hobbs are all back, too.
BREAK OUT TEAMS
BOYS' BASKETBALL -- WINTER PARK
Super sophomore Austin Rivers looks to improve on last year's regional semifinal exit.
GIRLS' BASKETBALL -- ASTRONAUT
Junior forward Deaundre Young will have her team making noise in Class 4A.
WRESTLING -- COUNTRYSIDE
State champ Kyle Grueninger, a senior, aims to improve on the team's fifth-place finish in 2007-08.
GIRLS' SOCCER -- BLOOMINGDALE
Seniors Cristina Coca (GK) and Aileen Herrera (D) lead a talented team.
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