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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Sep. 30, 2021 10 months ago

Titans set up for success with new coach, strong start

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Junior hitter Abigayle Dickinson is setting the pace after being invited to a prestigious volleyball camp in mid-September.
by: Chris Martucci Sports Editor

Over the summer, Olympia High School junior Abigayle Dickinson was hoping to receive an invitation to the 2021 National Team Development Program Summer Training Series volleyball camp. 

The camp, hosted by USA Volleyball, is where some of the best high school volleyball players are invited to train with the national volleyball team coaches and former players. Many of the players invited are considered for positions in national age group teams the following year so the camp could mean an opportunity to compete on the national and international stage. 

While one of her teammates was invited, she was not. 

And just like Michael Jordan, she took that personally. 

Dickinson currently is ranked sixteenth in Florida and first in Central Florida in kills during the 2021 season (235). She holds the team lead by more than 70 kills so far. With that early performance, she was not passed over this time for the elite camp’s fall session. 

“I was really excited (when I found out),” Dickinson said. “I was ecstatic to be offered the opportunity to play with them.” 

The training camp took place during the weekend of Sept. 11 and featured many familiar faces among the campers for Dickinson. 

“A lot of the girls were in my same age group that I play against in club national tournaments,” Dickinson said. “It was nice to have other coaches other than my coaches here at (Olympia), though my coaches here are great.” 

Before the season, Dickinson had to adjust to a new position and a new coach. After being the libero — the back row defensive specialist — for her first two years at Olympia, she was moved to outside hitter by first year volleyball coach Semei Tello. 

Having to adjust from one position to another was a challenge, but Dickinson took it in stride. 

“He’s helped me with (figuring out) when I do have a big block in front of me where to put the ball and how to create points for my team,” Dickinson said. 

However, she did say there was one down side to the adjustment. 

“I’m small for an outside hitter,” Dickinson said. 

Tello is Dickinson’s third coach in three years, but so far, she feels she has a good chemistry with him. She said the difference between Tello and her other two coaches is the passion he has for the job. 

“He’s definitely more invested (in the team) and wants to win,” Dickinson said. “Our other coaches — it just felt like they did it because they felt like they had to do it or were invited to do it. … All the girls have adapted to (Ponce’s) coaching style, and all of them seem to respect and listen to him.” 

Tello has taking a liking to Dickinson, as well. 

“Abigayle is a very special player,” Tello said. “We have a good core to work with here, and she’s the perfect leader for our team.” 

Before coming to Olympia, Tello served as volleyball coach at Lyman. He had known Olympia Athletic Director Kevin McElveen for 13 years and coached his son’s travel volleyball team. 

Olympia’s volleyball team is 11-8.  

Dickinson said the big goals for the team this season are to win districts, which they have not won since 2017, and to make a deep run in the state playoffs.

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Chris Martucci is the sports editor for the West Orange Times & Observer,  Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. He holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri — Columbia School of Journalism, as well as a bachelor's degree in...

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