The Easter weekend was quite the boon for local club Pro Style Volleyball.
Competing at the Big South Volleyball Tournament national qualifier in Atlanta, Pro Style’s 17 Black and 14-1 Tallahassee teams won their respective divisions and earned elusive bids to the United State Volleyball Association’s national tournament in New Orleans at the end of June.
“It is so hard to win a national bid, but to win two for our teams in Tallahassee is truly a dream come true,” Pro Style director and Maclay volleyball coach Erica Bunch said. “Our club could not be more proud of our girls and coaches for achieving this goal.”
The PSV 14-1 team, comprised of players that will soon make names for themselves on the high school level, outperformed its seeding— 60 out of 120 teams— in impressive fashion for a win. Over 1,300 teams and 14,000 girls competed in the tournament, which has been in existence for 24 years.
The PSV 17 Black team, coached by Chiles head coach Kaitlin DiLuzio, is made up of several first-team All-Big Bend honorees, including Maclay sophomore Melanie Canfield, Chiles junior Alyssa Rudd, and Lincoln sophomore Madison Fitzpatrick, while second-team Lincoln sophomore Callie Workman has provided athleticism to the overall attack.
“It is a good mix of girls from all over the city, and we have two from Panama City that haven’t played in high school with these girls or played in rival situations,” DiLuzio said. “We don’t have one dominant school. They’re excited, because it is fun to play with different people, trying to earn scholarships with an elite group in the offseason.”
PSV 17 Black had an up and down week preceding Big South, where it was seeded first of the 120 teams competing. Yet it didn’t waiver in the moment, winning its division, which was the only way to receive a national bid.
“I’m still learning my team, so I didn’t know how we’d do going in with a target on our back,” DiLuzio said. “At Chiles, that was something we were used to the past few years. Everyone wants to take you down and is rooting for the underdog. But I didn’t know how this team would respond.”
DiLuzio lauded the play of Panama City Rutherford sophomore T’ara Ceasar— who is being heavily recruited by Florida for her outside hitting prowess— and Leon junior Elyse Thompson, who earned honorable mention All-Big Bend as a libero this past fall.
“Elyse has anchored our defense the whole season and really come into her own,” said DiLuzio. “And T’ara is easily the best player in the state and she’s just a sophomore.”
College coaches that have been watching all the national qualifiers across the country have told PSV 17 Black’s coaches that their team has a strong chance to net a USAV national championship. But that also comes with paying the price for greatness in the coming weeks of practice.
“It will be just a constant that we’re playing teams just like us,” DiLuzio said. “To do that we have to train harder to have our best game. If we do that, there’s no doubt we have a really good opportunity to win the national tournament.”