A year ago the Marco Island Academy volleyball team was young, mostly freshmen, making an inaugural start in the school's first year.
While team numbers have not grown much, experience has. It has seven returners, looking to better their 3-11 mark. This season the Lady Manta Rays will play 23 games, 14 away from its home court at the Marco Island Charter Middle School.
Of those games, 18 will be against varsity opponents and five against junior varsity teams.
The season begins at home, playing Evangelical Christian's junior varsity at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 27. It's second home game is the next day, against Community Christian at 6 p.m.
Area varsity teams on the list are St. John Neumann, First Baptist Academy, Community School of Naples, Golden Gate, Palmetto Ridge and Everglades City. The Manta Rays will play junior varsity games with Gulf Coast and Seacrest.
New coach Kelly Monnot has a wealth of experience. She started all four years at Division I Eastern Kentucky University, recording the all-time assist record in the Ohio Valley Conference. She the team's two-time MVP and was part of the team that competed in the NCAA national tournament in 2005. She graduated in 2007.
Back to basics, is the initial theme for the Lady Manta Rays.
"I have experience, knowledge and having played I can share with them what is needed to be successful," she said. "I want to build a strong foundation, a team that will be competitive, including practice."
She has a wide range of talent on a team that calls for solidifying the basics,
"Know that the little things are important," is one of Monnot's talking points.
"To be contenders we have to have a drive to be competitive, to succeed," she said. "I want to build on what has been started and have a winning program."
Ready to be believers are returners Jessica Ragan, Victoria Vale, Romina Gimenez, Anna Howard, Alyssa Stolinas, Sarah Reisinger and Natalie Trevino. New to the team are Alexis Vilk and Brianna Minus. Monnot expects a few more to join the team after school starts on Monday.
"I want people to look at us and say, 'They are a good volleyball team.' " she said.