BRADENTON -- The way Tony Cothron sees it, his job is easy.
Manatee's new volleyball coach has a roster laden with as much talent as it has height, so all Cothron needs to do is make sure they gel.
"You're just trying to stay out of their way," he said.
Cothron apparently did a good enough job of that Wednesday when his Hurricanes beat Lakewood Ranch 3-0 to run their record to 4-0. Manatee won 25-21, 25-18 and 25-22.
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"When I came in, the biggest thing on my part was just to get them to mesh together as a team," said Cothron, a veteran club coach who spent the last two seasons at Palmetto, "and to play for one another. ... Make them play with each other and for each other. It's a good group of girls, and I think they're willing to learn some things that I can bring to them."
The Hurricanes have just one senior -- Jesse Durst, who had 16 digs -- but compensate with hard hitters and a good set of volleyball genes.
Freshman JoJo Coulter had a team-best 10 kills, including two straight to help arm Manatee with a 23-19 lead in Game 3. Her twin sister, Gabby, dished out 15 assists. And the twins' older sister, Haley, had nine kills.
And when it wasn't the Coulters, it was 5-foot-11 sophomore Grayson Hall (seven kills) or 6-4 junior captain Jacqui Armer (six blocks) keeping the Mustangs on the run.
But the player who Cothron called the final piece of Manatee's puzzle is freshman middle blocker Stefani Keller, whose passing helped the Canes funnel their offense Wednesday.
"I brought her in and asked her if she wouldn't mind playing middle, and she said, 'I'll do whatever.' And she's done a great job," Cothron said. "The whole team revolves around if we pass. If we don't pass, it doesn't matter if we have the best player in the world. They're only going to be able to do so much."
The Mustangs (1-2), who graduated four starters from last year's Class 7A-Region 3 final team, were in every game. But coach Perri Hankins said too many defensive lapses, especially against a good-hitting team such as Manatee, proved costly.
Nicole Grant had 11 kills for the Mustangs.
Hankins, however, would rather see such mistakes now rather than the postseason, which is why she scheduled Manatee and nationally ranked Venice so early in the year.
"We wanted to have a tough schedule in the beginning to see what we needed to do," Hankins said. "We think we have a chance to go far this year and better early to find out what you need to do, and what your team has, strengths and weaknesses."