Winners! Manta rays keep the drama on the volleyball court
BY T MICHELE WALKER – The Lemon Bay women’s volleyball team, the Manta Rays, are on a winning streak and determined to continue through to the state championship.
On Tuesday night, the Manta Rays defeated Nature Coast Tech 25-8, 25-14, 25-13 to win their 4A-2 regional volleyball quarterfinal match.
Lemon Bay coach Patrick Auer and team captain Gabriela Crespo, a senior from Lemon Bay, who happens to be a graduate of the island school, head the team. “My grandmother grew up on the island,” said Cindy Crespo, Gabriela’s mother. “And we moved to the island when Gabriela was five. She went to Island School and then to Lemon Bay, so it’s a well done Native girl story.
The last time the Manta Rays won the district volleyball title was nine years ago. The current team is relatively new. “We haven’t been together for that long,” Crespo explained. “This year we have two new seniors who have just arrived at our school. We have four or five sophomores on our team, so last year was our first year playing Lemon Bay.
In an interview the day before the game against Nature Coast Tech, Crespo explained the process. “If we win this game tomorrow night, then we’ll move on to a game next Tuesday, which is the regional semi-final. And then if we win this match, we go to the final for the regional ones. It will take place on Saturday.
“We’re just going one step at a time and we’re going with it because I would really like to win the regional ones. I think we have a pretty clear path for this.
While victory is important to Crispo and the team, it is secondary to the camaraderie on and off the pitch.
Crespo attributes their success to teamwork and positive morale. “In the last few years there has been a lot of drama within the team, but this year I feel like we don’t really have that. We all get along really well and we play so well together. You can see it on the pitch when there is a drama and it affects a lot of things. “
Regardless of the outcome, Crespo, who has been playing since sixth year, feels this season for the Manta Rays has been a huge success. “This is my last season playing volleyball and it has already been a great season. Our team is 24-2, so I think we’ve broken, or nearly broken the winning record for volleyball.
Crespo takes his role as captain seriously. “When she became captain one of the first things she said was, ‘If I become captain there will be no drama, we are going to get along and we are going to have fun,” said Cindy Crespo . “To become captain, they all put their name in a basket and they had to say why they wanted to be captain. It was Gabriela’s most important thing to her, is that she just wanted it to be. fun and let it be without additional drama.
Crespo is looking forward to an exciting season finale. “If we keep playing like we did and keep doing what we’re doing as a team, I think we have a great chance of winning and going to the United States, which would be really cool.”
Not bad for an island kid.
m Photos provided by Cindy Crespo and TK Photoshop