In just about every sport, it is scoring points that gets the glory, and in just about every sport, there are those laboring defensively or setting up those offensive stars.
Volleyball is no different, and one of the key players among many on Brevard County’s top team, Merritt Island, has been one of several key ingredients this season.
Tuesday night, Anna Garrett, that senior setter, and the rest of the Mustangs (25-2) open Class 5A regional play at home at 7 against South Lake. At the same time, Rockledge (14-5) will visit Bishop Moore. Regional play will continue on Wednesday with area teams in 4A and 2A.
While Garrett and other setters don’t necessarily get the attention some players do, she has been a consistent contributor in a variety of ways. Her 719 total assists and 9.5 average both led Brevard County as of last week.
Junior Alyssa Zwolensky and freshman Lexy Denaburg are the attacking firepower that benefits from Garrett’s sets, resulting in kills. Zwolensky’s .386 average and 276 kills are both among the top 10 in those categories county-wide.
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“Anna has a great skill set as a setter,” Patrick said, including the senior’s strengths outside the physical. “She’s improved her volleyball I.Q. I trust her more to call plays and run plays, keep the team together.”
That trust has grown over the years. Garrett arrived at Merritt Island as a freshman after moving from Tennessee, and the team had already gone through its offseason work when Patrick became aware of the new talent on campus.
For the first year, Garrett played sub-varsity, inheriting the setter position as a sophomore. Still something of a newcomer, vocal leadership didn’t come automatically upon joining the varsity lineup.
“It took her the first year to develop that,” Patrick said. “As a sophomore, that’s a tough thing to develop.”
Being that kind of team leader requires an overall vision of the talent on the floor and where the team is going. Garrett likes what she sees on a team that includes three other seniors: Gabrielle Okoye, Ashley Kube and Abby Shaffer.
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“All of the players on this team can play just about anywhere,” she said. “The outside hitters can all play middle, and our libero can hit. This year, we’ve dealt with a lot of injuries, and that’s one of the things that’s helped us.”
Those injuries have caused a requirement for versatility that may pay off, and if Merritt Island is to make a fourth trip to the state tournament in five years, major challenges will have to be overcome.
That same Bishop Moore that Rockledge will face Tuesday, could be waiting if the Mustangs advance. The one year of the last four when Merritt Island didn’t reach the state finals was due to Bishop Moore, also in the semifinal round.
Though this year’s Orlando juggernaught is not as experienced, Patrick and her players know what could lie ahead.
“They’ve never not been powerful,” the coach said. “They’re younger, but they’re still huge.”
Tuesday’s winners will advance to Saturday afternoon regional semifinals.
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