Land O’ Lakes volleyball coming back stronger in 2021

LAND O' LAKES — When asking Land O’ Lakes head coach David ‘Ike’ Klauka about his team, the lead man of the Gators’ volleyball isn’t shy about his feelings.

It’s a talented group at Land O’ Lakes and there are plenty of reasons for Klauka to be proud. The Gators are coming off a solid 2020 season despite coronavirus limitations. Land O’ Lakes ended the season with a record of 14-9 and made a playoff run before falling to a tough Robinson club on the road.

“I am excited about this season,” Klauka said. “We have three tournaments and a very tough schedule, but I think we are ready. We return seven seniors and three have been on varsity for all four years and two have been varsity for three years.

“So with that, I feel experience is a big strength," he continued. "Additionally we added a sophomore who started at Wiregrass Ranch last year. Add to that a sophomore transfer from Kentucky and you can see we would also have good depth.”

Klauka has touted the depth of his Gators as one of the top strengths, as most of the roster is comprised of upperclassmen. There’s also plenty of experience coming back on the front line.

Libero Catie Grimes returns to Land O’ Lakes after a all-conference season. Grimes led the team in digs with 211 and added 24 assists and 18 kills. Jasmine Christian is back after an up and down 2020, with 59 kills last fall.

“The team returns 2020 first-team all-conference libero Catie Grimes and second-team all-conference middle Kaitlyn Klemm,” Klauka said. “We also have senior Jasmine Christian, who had an injury-plagued season but was a second-team 2019 selection. Adding transfer Bella Horruitiner to the group and we have one of the best front lines in my six years.”

With such a senior-laden roster, the Gators are not shy about the goals they've set. One is winning a district championship, something the Gators have not pulled off since 1989. The other would be a region postseason victory, a feat not accomplished since 1987.

“This group of seniors comes in with the goal of winning a conference championship and a district,” Klauka added. “The goals are to repeat as conference champions and win the first district at Land O’ Lakes since 1989. A regional win would be the first since 1987 and is the ultimate dream goal. One game at a time and who knows.”

Andy Villamarzo can be reached at andyvillamarzo@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.