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Prose and Kohn

Here's what to watch for in Sarasota prep sports this spring

Sarasota high schools have state title contenders on the diamond and in the sand.

Cardinal Mooney High senior Helena Hebda (1) will be a leader on the Cougars beach volleyball team in 2024.
Cardinal Mooney High senior Helena Hebda (1) will be a leader on the Cougars beach volleyball team in 2024.
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Although the Florida High School Athletic Association winter sports playoffs are ongoing, the organization's spring sports are already beginning, with lacrosse regular season games beginning this week and baseball and softball getting underway next week. 

Here's a preview of some of the teams and players to watch over the next few months:


In 2023, Sarasota High dominated both diamond sports. The Sailors baseball team went 21-9 in the first year under Head Coach Greg Mulhollen after legendary coach Clyde Metcalf stepped down following the 2022 season. 

The team was led by its pitching staff, which held a combined 2.34 ERA. The team lost starting pitcher Tanner Crump (0.91 ERA) to graduation, among others, but returns senior Bernard Barnes Jr. (2.37 ERA), who had a 6-0 record. Barnes also hit .312 with two home runs and 19 RBIs at the plate. The team's lineup was senior-heavy in 2023 and will have to mix in plenty of fresh faces this season as a result, but the Sailors are still the team to beat in the area until proven otherwise. 

On the softball diamond, Sarasota went 21-5 in its second year under Head Coach Heather Mushrush. Like the baseball team, the softball team featured dominant pitching, but it was mostly carried out by one person: Ryleigh Bennett, who held a 1.44 ERA while throwing 145.1 innings. Bennett has since graduated, so the Sailors will need to find a new ace on the mound in 2024. But the Sailors will return much of their lineup, including junior leadoff hitter Sommer Speers (.420 average) and senior slugger Brooke Bendel (seven home runs, 36 RBIs), which should help as the team figures out its pitching situation.

Sommer Speers hits .420 for the Sarasota High softball team in 2023.
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What other diamond sports teams could make noise? The Riverview High baseball team had a rare down season in 2023, finishing 9-17, but has a pair of returning pitchers — senior Will St. Onge and junior Caden Sladek — who could lead a turnaround. St. Onge held a 2.12 ERA and Sladek held a 2.36 ERA, both marks coming in 29.2 innings. 

And while I don't know how the Cardinal Mooney High softball team will do in 2024 — the Cougars went 4-8 in 2023 — I do know that senior Madison Duncan is worth watching. Duncan, primarily a third baseman, proved herself to be one of the most exciting players in Florida last season, hitting .700 at the plate while striking out just three times. Duncan also held a perfect fielding percentage and recorded 97 put-outs. 

Beach volleyball

There's no debate here: the Cardinal Mooney beach volleyball team gets the top spot in this preview. That's what happens when you go 24-2, win a Sunshine State Athletic Association state championship — for the second year in a row — and advance to the Final Four of the Florida High School Athletic Association state tournament. 

It is difficult to keep stats in a sport like beach volleyball, where each team match is segmented into matches featuring pairs of players. But know this: the Cougars are returning senior Helena Hebda, whom Head Coach Chad Davis called "the best player in the area" last season. They are also returning juniors Kate Montesano and Riley Greene, who lost just once as a pair during the 2023 season, and juniors Katie Powers and Izzy Russell, who lost just twice as a pair during the season. 


The 2024 season, like the 2023 season, should see the sport of lacrosse continue to gain popularity in the area — that means increased competition. The Cardinal Mooney boys team has historically been the most successful program in the area. The Cougars went 12-7 in 2023, including a six-game winning streak that was snapped by a 13-12 loss to the Community School of Naples in the Class 1A regional semifinals. Mooney senior James Frankauski is the team's leading returning scorer, having netted 42 goals in 2023. 

The Riverview boys team should also be a tough team to play. The Rams went 8-10 last year but return their top scorer in junior Jack Yochim (36 goals). 

Riverview High's Susan Lowther scored 112 goals in 2023.
File photo

On the girls side of the sport, the Rams have the edge after going 12-8 last season. They bring back one of the top offensive players in the country in senior Susan Lowther, who scored 112 goals in 2023, good for 25th in the U.S. according to MaxPreps data. Lowther signed with Clemson University during the offseason and should once again give the Rams a chance against just about anybody, especially when paired with talented teammates like juniors Caroline Steinwachs (56 goals) and Chloe Hackl (48 goals). 

Track and field

Riverview's Susan Lowther does more than lacrosse; she's a track and field star, too. Lowther earned a silver medal in the Class 4A girls discus with a throw of 41.86 meters. She'll go for a gold medal this year. Fellow Rams track and field athlete Luis Castaneda also finished second in the boys discus last year with a toss of 50.12 meters. Now a junior, Castaneda should contend for a top medal again. 

There are other contenders too, like Jayson Evans, who finished sixth in the 100-meter dash (10.76 seconds) and eighth in the 200-meter dash (21.92 seconds) at the Class 2A state meet last year at Booker High. Evans, a senior, transferred to Riverview last summer, so he'll have to raise his game in Class 4A to be in medal contention.



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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