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Sarasota Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016 4 years ago

Hit or Miss: Jen Blanco

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Pair of basketball players and a softball player announce college intentions.
by: Jen Blanco Sports Editor

It was an eventful first day of school in Sarasota as several Sarasota and Riverview High athletes announced their college intentions Aug. 22. 

The news spread quickly across social media sites Twitter and Instagram as coaches, teammates and friends congratulated the senior trio. 

At Sarasota, standout center Madison Pack announced she will be attending Columbia University. 

During her junior season, Pack averaged 10.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and one block per game for the Lady Sailors. 

Fellow classmate Lexi Johns committed to play softball for Florida International University. Johns, a pitcher and middle infielder, helped lead the Sailors to the state semifinals in 2015. 

Across town, Riverview senior Brion Whitley announced he will be heading to the University of North Carolina Wilmington to play basketball. Whitley chose UNCW over Harvard, Wofford and the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. 

Last season, Whitley, who transferred from Sarasota Christian, averaged 20 points and four rebounds while helping lead the Rams to the Class 8A state final. In his first season at Riverview, Whitley was named to the Final Four All-Tournament team. 

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Priority One Volleyball Director Craig Wolfe struggled with the thought of having to tell players they couldn’t play for him. 

On more than one occasion, Wolfe had to turn some younger players away because the organization didn’t have enough players to fill teams in all age groups. 

Wolfe, who also coaches the Riverview High volleyball team, wanted to resolve the issue. It was just a matter of figuring out the best course of action. His answer came in a text message from Venice High volleyball coach Brian Wheatley, who also is the club director for Venetian Bay Volleyball Club. 

Wheatley asked Wolfe if he would consider joining him at Venetian Bay. The two met, discussed the possibilities and decided to partner.

“It just made sense,” Wolfe said. “Joining together would create an amazing opportunity for all the players in the area. Joining the most established and successful club int he area is an amazing opportunity for not only Priority One players, but for all players in our area.” 

By joining forces, the two clubs are hoping a deeper pool of talent will create stronger top teams while also being able to offer more developmental teams. With a knowledgeable, successful and professional set of coaches already at Venetian Bay, Wolfe is looking forward to sharing ideas with a new group of coaches and continuing to learn from some of the area’s other top coaches while providing an environment where his players can thrive. Ultimately, the two coaches want what is best for the players. 

“I think having two of the area's most experienced and most successful coaches working together will be tremendous,” Wolfe said. “Players will see that a fierce rivalry during the high school season can then turn into the area's most successful club teams by joining forces.  I am very excited about what we can offer all players in Sarasota County and beyond.” 

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