Miller column: Aucilla Christian creates volleyball

Miller column: Aucilla Christian creates volleyball

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Miller column: Aucilla Christian creates volleyball

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The Aucilla Christian volleyball team plays a match against Taylor County. The Warriors are in their first year as a girls program.

The Aucilla Christian volleyball team plays a match against Taylor County. The Warriors are in their first year as a girls program.

When I was in eighth grade at North Florida Christian, our middle school basketball team went to Aucilla Christian to play a game.

In those days, Aucilla’s gym floor wasn’t wood. In fact, it more closely resembled a living room.

It was carpet laid over concrete. If you got into a scrum on the surface, you’d surely come away with rug burns.

Things have changed since 1993, and the Warriors’ athletic program continues to grow up.

Last spring the private Jefferson County school won a state title in softball, its first in any sport spanning 46 years as a school.

Aucilla softball claims school’s first state title

This fall, Aucilla introduced volleyball as a new fall sport, and it will have tennis in the spring.

Adding volleyball caused the latest change to the gym floor at a cost of $5,000.

“We had to re-line the floor and in the process had to do some renovations to the floor, the seams, and things like that,” Warriors athletic director Kevin Smith said. “Then we had to purchase the net, the standards, the poles, the official stand, plus 20-plus balls, uniforms and schedule officials.”

This is the first year that Aucilla Christian, with a 46-year school history, has a volleyball team.

This is the first year that Aucilla Christian, with a 46-year school history, has a volleyball team.

Smith estimated the total cost at close to $15,000 to implement everything.

But now the school has volleyball and first-year coach Cathy Rogers, who coached Gainesville Buchholz’s middle school and JV teams and was the assistant varsity coach while a student at the University of Florida some time ago.

“The first practice was an eye opener,” Rogers said. “Only three out of the 25 girls I had for varsity and middle school had played before.”

Aucilla’s Hightower, Madison’s Smith cap dream seasons as All-Big Bend POY

Maclay head coach and Pro Style Volleyball founder Erica Bunch went to Aucilla and did a three-day skills camp over the summer as a boot camp introduction to the sport.

“It’s been a complete learning curve,” Rogers said. “They have to play completely together as a team and rely on each other to score for their team.”

The Aucilla Christian volleyball team plays a match against Taylor County. The Warriors are in their first year as a girls program.

The Aucilla Christian volleyball team plays a match against Taylor County. The Warriors are in their first year as a girls program.

Two months has passed since that summer camp. The Warriors lost their first two matches to FAMU DRS and Taylor County, 3-0, but they secured a 3-0 sweep over Tallavana Christian (25-19, 25-18, 25-16) for their school’s first win.

A second win came against West Gadsden, and in a show of improvement, Aucilla took FAMU DRS to a five-set match last week, losing the fifth set in a tiebreak, 18-16.

“It’s night and day now, and it’s amazing what they’re doing now,” Rogers said. “FAMU has amazing servers and net presence. They’re tall and athletic, and if you get it close to the net they’re going to kill it. Our girls only had two serve-receive errors and our ability at the net is so much smarter. They’re court aware and anticipating what will happen, whereas before I don’t think they’d even watched a volleyball game.”

The Aucilla Christian volleyball team plays a match at FAMU DRS. The Warriors are in their first year as a girls program.

The Aucilla Christian volleyball team plays a match at FAMU DRS. The Warriors are in their first year as a girls program.

Athletic girls that were playing other sports, such as sophomores Camryn Grant in basketball and shortstop Carly Joiner in softball, now have become volleyball players.

Grant leads the Warriors in kills and blocks, while Joiner is using her quickness as the team’s setter.

The Aucilla Christian volleyball team plays a match against Taylor County. The Warriors are in their first year as a girls program.

The Aucilla Christian volleyball team plays a match against Taylor County. The Warriors are in their first year as a girls program.

“Carly is very fast and really wants to do everything you want her to do,” Rogers said. “She has really good hands. At shortstop, you dominate on the field, much the way a setter is the central position.

“For Camryn, besides being the tallest girl on the team she’s very smart. She’s a fantastic middle hitter and blocker. And then my libero Natalie Vasquez is dynamite.”

Most of the girls on Aucilla’s team are young. Rogers is also coaching the middle school team so that when they move up in age and skill, they’re prepared to take the varsity play to the next level.

Rogers is requiring her middle schoolers to go through the process of bump-set-spike and not just hit back across the net, so that actual gameplay increases and becomes second nature as years pass.

Aucilla Christian softball team going for history, one way or the other

And that will keep the Aucilla volleyball product on the rise, and perhaps one day reach what softball has become.

“I think they’re having a great time,” Rogers said. “They’re enjoying seeing they can be good at something besides a sport they’ve known forever.”

Aucilla Christian libero Natalie Vasquez goes for a dig in a recent game. The Warriors have volleyball for the first time and secured a first win over Tallavana Christian.

Aucilla Christian libero Natalie Vasquez goes for a dig in a recent game. The Warriors have volleyball for the first time and secured a first win over Tallavana Christian.

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