SIDELINE SCENE: Warriors should be proud of season
| 10:05 a.m. November 13, 2014
Ross Usie arrived on campus as the new coach of the West Orange girls volleyball team the same year as this season’s senior class.
Both Usie and the then-freshmen were stepping into a sub-.500 program without much of a tradition of success for the program.
Usie took a remarkable six freshmen for the varsity team that first season. Four of them remained with the program through the Warriors’ season that wrapped on Nov. 4 in a regional semifinal loss to Boone in the FHSAA Class 8A State Tournament.
Together, Usie and those original four seniors — Jen Cook, Jayden Davila-McClary, CJ O’Brien and Brooke Shebovsky — fundamentally changed the program in that time, culminating in a season that saw West Orange win its first district title since 1977 and its first playoff game in program history.
“I knew when I first got to the program that it wasn’t a really strong program, but I knew I could hopefully help that,” Usie said. “The group of freshmen that I got that year were exceptional, and I knew that, in four years, when they were seniors, I knew something was going to be magical with them.”
The Warriors have been above .500 every season since Usie took over, and this fall, they finished with a 22-7 record. Along the way, West Orange made a case for itself as one of the premier programs in Central Florida and gained the respect of some of the more established programs in the region, as well as getting some pub from several local news outlets.
“It felt good to be noticed, and the girls were excited to have our name out … to be one of the top programs in the area,” Usie said. “People started remembering the West Orange name.”
With the type of season the team had and some of the teams the Warriors defeated, including a thrilling district-championship victory over rival Apopka, the girls had hoped for a bigger stage beyond the regional tournament. That hope came to an end when West Orange faltered against a Boone Braves team with more playoff pedigree playing on its home court.
Still, after the game, Usie made sure to help his team put what had happened this fall in the right light.
Usie said: “‘Ladies, you’re not going to remember the scores of these games. You might not even remember who we played 10, 15 years down the road. But you will remember the people you played with and you will remember you made history for West Orange High School. You literally had the best season West Orange has ever had.’”
And the team has also laid the foundation for the future. While the Warriors will miss their graduating seniors, the program does have a bright future that is exemplified by young talented players like freshman outside hitter Makala Heidelberg.
So, although there was no trip to the state tournament’s Final Four to be had for this year’s team, they can still lay claim to the program’s best season to date and absolutely know that they left the program better than they found it.