ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
Mantel's week proves elite for Cornerstone Academy
Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 9:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 9:22 p.m.
When Stephanie Wyatt first started coaching at Cornerstone Academy, her team was struggling to simply learn how to pass a volleyball.
Six years later, what was once a chore to accomplish, has now become her team's greatest strength.
Perhaps no player this season has displayed how the volleyball culture has changed at Cornerstone more than senior Tori Mantel, who began playing for Wyatt as a seventh-grader.
At both setter and right-side hitter for the Cougars, Mantel led her team to a 7-0 record last week with a district win against St. John Lutheran followed by six wins in the Gainesville Elite Tournament, hosted by Oak Hall, where she was named to the All-Tournament team.
True to her coach's philosophy of a disciplined attack fueled by precision passing, Mantel kept Cornerstone's offense running smoothly by amassing a team-high 60 assists, 40 kills and 7 aces among her 38 service points last week.
“We run 6-2 (formation), so Tori plays an integral part in everything from offense to defense,” Wyatt said. “She plays a huge role with her leadership and her belief.”
Mantel also chipped in defensively with 65 digs and 11 blocks, despite playing on an undersized Cougars team that has just one player taller than 5-foot-7.
Coupled with the inconsistency that comes with starting a string of freshmen and sophomores, Wyatt said she relies on Mantel for more than just her heady play on the hardwood.
“We have a unique situation,” Wyatt said. “Our range of maturity is so different than a typical varsity team, and Tori leads by example not only in her play, but the way she treats the younger players.”
Wyatt said Saturday was the first time Cornerstone has ever won a volleyball tournament at any level. While the Cougars came into this season fresh off a first-ever appearance in the state playoffs, Mantel and Cornerstone were just 4-6 entering last week due to a brutal early season schedule.
Now with an 11-6 overall record and a District 2A-4 win to their name, the Cougars have turned their season around thanks, in part, to Mantel's stellar play.
“It gives us an excitement and a confidence that maybe we didn't have two weeks ago,” Wyatt said. “It puts us in a great position.”
McKENZIE HOLLEN, OAK HALL: The senior libero was voted MVP of last weekend's Gainesville Elite Tournament after recording 103 digs and 50 service points in 6 tournament games. The Eagles finished third in the tournament and lost two games earlier in the week to P.K. Yonge and St. Francis. Through the eight-game stretch, Hollen had added 17 more digs and 9 service points to go along with her 22 aces, 19 assists and 6 kills on the week.
MARK CATO, GAINESVILLE: The senior signal-caller was 13-of-22 passing for 185 yards through the air and had 2 touchdown passes to lead a Hurricanes offense that rolled up 436 total yards in a 40-0 win against Eastside. Cato also made plays with his legs on two touchdown runs of 10 and 3 yards.
PUREUN KIM, GAINESVILLE: The Sun's reigning player of the year shot a 4-under, 32 last week to earn medalist honors and tie the GHS 9-hole school record in a match against Newberry against Ironwood.
CARSTEN THUE-BLUDWORTH, EASTSIDE: The senior set a school record Saturday, running the boys 5K in 16:37.60 at the Flrunners.com Invitational held in Titusville. Thue-Bludworth placed 10th out of 272 runners and helped the Rams finish 21st as a team.
ASHTON MATTHEWS, BELL: The freshman middle hitter notched 10 kills, 5 blocks, 2 assists, 1 dig and had 3 aces on 4 service points for Bell, which swept Dixie County in its lone game last week.
RAYCHEL THOMAS, BELL: A sophomore, Thomas had 23 assists last week from her setter position to go along with 9 digs, 2 kills and 2 aces among her 5 service points.
JENNY WING, CORNERSTONE: The junior middle blocker led the Cougars with 42 kills, 38 digs and 13 blocks as Cornerstone went 7-0 last week.
MALLORY MORGAN, SUWANNEE: The junior setter had 15 service points, 15 assists and 1 kill last week in losses to Dixie County and Baker County.
SARAH FUTCH, SUWANNEE: The junior outside hitter compiled 11 service points, 4 kills and 1 block as the Bulldogs went 0-2 last week.
AUSTIN RITCHEY, BELL: A two-way starter, Richey had 158 yards and 3 touchdown runs on 8 carries in Bell's 45-20 win against Bishop Snyder. The junior also made 5 tackles on defense.
JUSTIN TERRY, BELL: At fullback, Terry carried the ball 8 times for 95 yards and a touchdown in a home win against Bishop Snyder. On defense, he led the Bulldogs linebacker corps with 14 tackles.
ALEX GONZALES, KEYSTONE HEIGHTS: In a district win against Weeki Wachee, Gonzalez carried the ball 25 times for 178 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Indians to a 14-0 win. The senior running back also had a reception for 6 yards.
SAM ANDERSON, KEYSTONE HEIGHTS: The sophomore linebacker recorded 7 tackles, including 6 assists, and had a fumble recovery in the Indians' District 4A-4 road win against the Hornets.
DAQUIN EDWARDS, UNION COUNTY: While Edwards didn't find the end zone on any of his 22 carries against Fort White, the junior fullback's 132 yards were pivotal in helping Union Country control possession and run off clock in its 28-21 road win.
DYLAN CLARK, UNION COUNTY: The senior linebacker provided the Tigers with a 13-0 lead in the first quarter against the Indians when he ran in a 10-yard fumble recovery. Clark also notched 11 tackles (5 solo, 6 assist) in the win for Union County, the second-ranked team in 1A.
KEON JENKINS, GAINESVILLE: At linebacker, Jenkins had 9 tackles (5 solo, 4 assist), including 2 tackles for loss, to help Gainesville's defense limit Eastside to 105 total yards and four first downs in a 40-0 win.
BRAD HINES, BUCHHOLZ: The senior captain shot a 75 to earn medalist honors at Ironwood last Thursday in an 18-hole match against Oak Hall.
MANNY DIAZ, BUCHHOLZ: The junior was the low medalist last Tuesday with an even par-35 in a 9-hole match at Meadowbrook against Eastside, Gainesville, and Santa Fe.
MATT POWELL, GAINESVILLE: The junior shot a season-low 38 in a quad meet against Meadowbrook last week.
AUSTIN PERRY, OAK HALL: The sophomore ran a personal-best time of 17:52.50 and placed 16th individually Saturday for the Eagles at the Flrunners.com Invitational. Competing in the small school race, Oak Hall finished 12th out of 29 teams.
ZACK BEAUCHAMP, OAK HALL: The junior ended the boys 5K in 33rd place with a season-best 5K time of 18:46.30.
LAUREN PERRY, OAK HALL: In the Flrunners.com Invitational's race of champions, Perry, an eighth-grader, edged teammate Brittany Ollinger for 13th place overall by recording a personal-best 18:47.10 in the girls 5K. The Eagles finished fourth as a team.
RAVI KUMAR, EASTSIDE: The senior ran a personal-best 5K time of 17:45.90 to place 71st on Saturday at the Flrunners.com Invitational.
CHRISTINE PU, EASTSIDE: The junior led the Rams' girls team with a season-best run of 21:16.20 and placed 58th at the Flrunners.com Invitational.
RIA SOMESHWAR, EASTSIDE: The junior ran a season-best time of 22:16.60 and was the second Rams' runner to cross in 123rd place at the girls 5K at the Flrunners.com Invitational. Eastside finished 31st as a team.
Athletes of the week are determined by nominations from area coaches. Coaches are asked to call in every Sunday between 4-7 p.m.