High School Sports

Prep volleyball | Manatee, Riverview meet again in regional semifinals

Who: Riverview (12-10) at Manatee (24-4)

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

How they got here: Manatee def. Cypress Creek, 3-0; Riverview def Olympia, 3-0

Winner gets: Either Kissimmee Osceola or Stuart Martin County in Tuesday's regional final.

Outlook: The Canes are now two wins away from a return trip to state and four wins from a state championship repeat, but the competition from here on out is simply too tough to allow for looking ahead. For Manatee, Riverview is a familiar foe, being a district rival. Manatee is 2-0 against the Sharks this season, having won by scores of 3-0 and 3-1. Riverview has frontline height headlined by 6-4 senior captain Shelby Akos, a middle blocker who has 225 kills and 50 total blocks this season. She was deadly in her team's 3-1 loss to Manatee on Sept. 17, ripping a season-high 21 kills, but the Canes contained her in the Oct. 20 district championship rematch and held her to just three kills on 24 attempts. Manatee counters up front with 6-1 senior outside hitter Haley Coulter (257 kills), sophomore hitter JoJo Coulter (185 kills), and 6-4 senior blocker Jacqui Armer (146 kills, 68 blocks). Hailey Coulter and libero Kara Saylor key the backline, combining for 298 digs, while setters Gabby Coulter (389 assists) and Gillian Cassidy (289 assists) anchor the Canes' passing game. Manatee will have to overcome some fierce opposition if it's going to hoist a state championship trophy for a second straight season, but against Riverview, the Canes have advantages in both experience and talent. Manatee shouldn't have too much trouble advancing into the regional finals.

Pick: Manatee in three sets.

--By Andy Marks, Herald sports editor