BRADENTON — The members of State College of Florida’s volleyball team can talk all they want about changing the program’s image around the state.
They know the credibility won’t come, however, until they produce on the court.
Thus far, they have.
The Manatees opened Suncoast Conference play by ripping past South Florida CC 3-0 on Tuesday night, needing just an hour to power past the Panthers at Hal Chasey Gymnasium.
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“We have some of the best players in the state, and people won’t recognize it until we start showing them statistics and everything,” said sophomore hitter Natalie Gaudreau, “like, ‘Look at us — we’ve got players like everybody else.’”
The Manatees (6-4, 1-0) were impressive Tuesday, winning by scores of 25-8, 25-10 and 25-14. Games 2 and 3 followed similar scripts — the Panthers hung around early before SCF used long scoring runs to pull away.
The Manatees scored 21 of the final 27 points in the second game 22 of the final 33 in the finale.
“No team is ever going to play perfectly,” said SCF coach Carmine Garofalo. “The second game we played a little sloppy, but then we pulled it together and started playing our game. And you need to be able to do that because against better teams, you’re not going to be able to get away with that too often.”
SCF was no one-woman show. Gaudreau, a Venice alum, had eight kills, two aces and six digs, while libero Abigail Gaiotti anchored the defense with 14 digs.
Aurora Newgard plunked in four aces and a team-best 12 kills, while Bradenton Christian graduate Sarah Geraldson dished out 30 assists.
“It was important to open up (conference play) the right way,” Garofalo said.
Now the key is to keep it rolling, especially since SCF continues conference play Thursday when the Manatees head to Hillsborough Community College.
According to Gaudreau, however, the momentum is already building.
“If you could see our first practice to now ... everybody wants to be at practice,” she said, “working hard, giving everything they have — blood, sweat and tears on the court every time.”