Transitioning from fall to winter is never easy, not with the way the football and volleyball players overlap the soccer and basketball players, resulting in incomplete teams looking to get key starters back prior to the new year.
Not so much this season. Football ended before Thanksgiving, affording this season's squads the luxury of going full strength earlier than they have in the past and allowing basketball, soccer and wrestling coaches to fill out full lineups way before Christmas.
So let's take a peek at some storylines that will unfold over the next few months:
Southeast girls basketball
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Not only did the Seminoles fail to win a district title last season, but they lost to Gulfport Boca Ciega in the semifinals of the Class 5A-District 12 tournament. It didn't help that their leading scorer, DeAngela Mathis, was sidelined by a vicious eye poke, and a school-related issue kept leading rebounder Keshawna Robinson out of the starting lineup. It was strange not seeing Southeast and its venerable head coach, John Harder, listed in any regional brackets -- and it would be stranger still to see it two years in a row. But it's safe to chalk up last year's stunning semifinal loss to a ridiculous convergence of bad luck, and don't be surprised to see Harder and his Noles alive and kicking come February.
Oh, where to begin? Manatee has gone two straight winters without a state place winner, which qualifies as a drought for the tradition-rich Hurricanes. But junior Jesse Fulk, who already has won 109 matches, should make his way up to the medal podium, if not to the semifinals, this February in Lakeland. And don't be
too surprised to see Dakoda Dossey and Caleb Rudisill join him. Palmetto, which has accomplished quite a bit since hatching its wrestling program in 2005, is looking for its first state medal and has a pair of viable candidates this year in Anthony Viscomi and Robert McLachlan. Southeast is banking on big things from big brothers Gage and Kane Takacs. Then there is the county tournament: After Manatee beat Palmetto by two points last year to claim the crown, the Jan 24th encore should be interesting.
Palmetto boys soccer
The Tigers are scoring goals and wins in bunches, improving to 8-1 following Wednesday's non-district victory over Lakewood Ranch. Coach Dustin Dahlquist's team looks a lot like the teams of years past -- efficient, fast and armed with a number of scoring options -- which isn't a bad thing, considering Palmetto has made three state final four appearances since 2009.
Is this year's team good enough for a fourth?
We'll see how it plays out.
Welcome to winter.
John Lembo, prep sports writer, can be reached at 745-7057. Follow him on Twitter@JohnLembo1878.