SPORTS & MORE: RARE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE LADY CONCHS VOLLEYBALL

If you hope to see Key West High School’s varsity volleyball team in action, this weekend is one of your few chances this season. The Lady Conchs will host the Conch Cup with games Friday and Saturday, Sept. 17 and 18, at the Menendez Gym. 

Key West will face True North at 4 p.m. Friday, and Marathon at 5 p.m. On Saturday, the Lady Conchs oppose Palmer Trinity at 9 a.m. and Mater Lakes Academy at 11 a.m. 

Other than that five-team tourney, new coach Sarah Eckert only has home matches scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 28 (against Marathon for Senior Night), Tuesday, Oct. 5 against Keys Gate and Thursday, Oct. 7 against Coral Shores. Those three contests will have junior varsity games at 4 p.m., followed by varsity matches at 5:30 p.m., all at Menendez Gym. 

Eckert was athletic director the past four years before going back to the coaching ranks. She brings with her a lot of enthusiasm and promises of successful seasons that could lead to district championships. She’s no stranger to volleyball, having been successful at the prep level in Riverside, California, and the college level at Butler University and Indianapolis University, both in Indiana. Yes, she was good enough as a 6’2” player in California to attract attention from Midwest universities. 

After getting her bachelor’s degree from Indianapolis, she obtained her master’s from the American College of Education and headed into the world, teaching sciences and coaching volleyball. But not in the cold North. She and her new husband, David Eckert, headed for Florida, including the Naples and Vero Beach areas before becoming athletic director at Key West.

“I had been missing coaching,” said Eckert, 38. So, when Kim Butler resigned as head coach, Eckert stepped up. And she has Butler as her assistant. Jill Burnham is the head JV coach. 

At Vero Beach, Eckert was freshman coach her first year, then took over the head coaching position, taking the team to regional finals five times. This at a school that “hadn’t won a district title in a couple decades.” So, you can see why she intends to do likewise in Key West. 

The coach speaks positively of her 10-girl squad, using terms like “talented,” “quick” and “wealth of knowledge of the sport” without hesitation.

The team will be without Monika Jaroszewicz for the Conch Cup as the sophomore injured her ankle at the Sept. 10-11 East Coast Challenge at Jensen Beach High School. Key West lost four matches in that tourney before defeating Pembroke Pines Charter. “It was a good learning experience,” said the coach. “We won some games along the way so it wasn’t a complete blowout.” 

Senior Lindsey Clausen will be at outside; sophomore Bridgette Sweeney will be middle back; junior Emiri Ichijo at libero; sophomore Elsie Warwick at opposite outside; junior Samantha Ventimiglia at the other middle; sophomore Victoria Pavlik at setter; sophomore Jocelyn Alfar and freshman Lucie Bublakova, secondary setter, and senior Amya Boose, defensive specialist.

Conch gridders play home opener

Key West High School’s football team, winless in a pair of away contests this season, finally gets to play on its island, if not at its regular Tommy Roberts Memorial Stadium. Instead, the 0-2 Conchs will face another winless team, 0-3 St. Brendan, at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17, at the high school Backyard.

“It’s a district game, so that puts some more importance on it,” said Key West coach John

Hughes.

While the Conchs were getting a week off with a bye, the Sabres were losing to Belen Jesuit

Prep, 43-6. St. Brendan had previously lost to Sunset, 14-7, and True North, 34-6. Key West has lost to Palmetto Ridge, 16-13 and Centennial, 42-14.

“We don’t plan to change anything, but maybe the score,” said Hughes. “We hope to eliminate

mistakes.”

Also, Conch alum Mekhi Sargent was active on Sunday for the Tennessee Titans. The Key West graduate gained two yards in his only carry of the day. Arizona trimmed the Titans, 38-13. Tennessee plays at Seattle at 4:25 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19.

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Veteran sports columnist Ralph Morrow says the only sport he doesn’t follow is cricket. That leaves plenty of others to fill his time.