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Last year, the Marco Island Academy volleyball team reached double digits in victories for the first time in the nine-year history of the program.

They’re even better this year.

The Manta Rays won the Oasis Tournament over the weekend, the first tournament it had ever been invited to. Marco Island defeated Oasis, Mariner, Everglades City and Lely in pool play, and then defeated Oasis again in the championship match. The 2-1 victory over Lely was Marco Island’s first-ever over the Trojans in any sport.

“Winning this tournament has multiple meanings for us,” Marco coach Alyssa Stolinas said. “We proved to the more prominent public schools that we can compete with them. It was also a great confidence boost for my girls. They always knew they could compete at a higher level, but now they have proven it to themselves.”

The victory over Lely was especially memorable, as many of the Manta Rays players grew up and are friends with the Lely squad.

“You always know Lely will be well-coached and ready for any challenge,” Stolinas said. “You know you have to play your best to compete with them. We did not get to play them last year, and we did not have the opportunity to play them on our schedule this year, so it was nice to be able to see them in this tournament. … Showing that we were able to play with, and beat one of the better teams in Collier County will help our program grow. I am hoping we can get Lely on the schedule every year because it would be a fun game to look forward to each year.”

Marco Island (12-1) has already exceeded last season’s win total by one, which was the best campaign in school history. The Manta Rays are coming off a conference championship, but they’d like to compete for a district title and qualify for the state playoffs, Stolinas said.

“We know how hard our district and conference have been,” Stolinas said. “We wanted to be more challenged this year to help us prepare for the October games.

Marco Island’s starting lineup consists of outside hitters Camryn Rose and Skye LaButte, middle hitters Casey Erickson and Morgan Maile, setter Lauren Faremouth, libero Virginia Lowe, defensive specialist Ellie Ball and opposite hitter Virginia Lowe. Faremouth and Ball are the lone seniors in the starting lineup.

“Our program is heading in the right direction,” Stolinas said. We have had some outstanding leadership this year from our captains, and we even made some position changes at the beginning of the season, and the whole team has bought in. They have realized what this team is capable of and all 13 girls are on the same page and trying to help achieve these goals.

“We have a young team still, and we feel that we should continue to grow for years to come. … I love that with this team, every game someone new steps up and elevates their game. Even this weekend (at the tournament) we were short two players who were taking the ACT, and the team responded and played ssome of their best volleyball of the season. This team is just so much fun to coach.”

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