- September 23, 2021
The Windermere High School girls volleyball team is excited for another year of strong competition and growth.
“Last season, we made it to the last day, so it’s hard, because now the expectations are going to be super hard,” head volleyball coach Daniel Fuentes said.
The girls made school history last year when they reached the state final game. However, they lost against Plant High School, 3-2.
“Obviously last year, we made it to state finals,” libero Reese Burry said. “We still want to make it that far, but also, we want to still develop as a team, develop the program, because we haven’t been open for that long, and overall just have a good season, have fun and just go a long way— as far as we can.”
Currently, the team is ranked No. 28 in the Florida High School Athletic Association, making it the top ranked team in the area; Olympia High School sits at No. 75.
“I honestly think we definitely earned that,” setter Isabel Mulita said of the ranking. “We had been the underdogs the entire time, and setting that school history last year was amazing. Keeping that ranking — it’s such a great accomplishment for us.”
“To be honest, for me, that’s just a number,” Fuentes said. “If you want to play and compete, it doesn’t matter who is on the other side. You may be like ‘Oh, I can’t wait to play the No. 1 seed,’ but then you play No. 48, and they beat you. So being on that position, I don’t talk about that with my girls; I just want them to work hard.”
The game against Olympia High School is a game the Wolverines are excited to play; several of the girls from both teams play together in club teams.
“Definitely, in our division, everybody can be our biggest rival because of all the changes,” Fuentes said. “But the school we are waiting to play is Olympia. I think last season that was one of our best matches, and we played them a few times. (We), the coaches, are friends and the girls play together in club, so the energy outside the court is like, ‘Oh, I’m going to beat you.’ I know they have a good team this year, and that’s definitely one of the biggest games in our schedule.”
This season, the Wolverines will face a new foe — Winter Park High.
Last year, the team lost five seniors. So, this year a new culture is brewing and a brand-new team is forming along with stronger relationships.
“I really love how we are building a new team, we are building new players, so when I leave — or when the other seniors leave, we’ll still have a strong team for next year,” Mulita said. “Our team has always been very close on and off the court. We have such a good relationship and chemistry with each other, so we know how to play, we know our weaknesses, our strengths, and we’ve learned how to work around that, better ourselves and better our teammates.”
Honesty is one of the pillars Fuentes is trying to instill in the program, as well as cultivating a legit reputation for the girls within the community.
“What we have to do is be honest and say, ‘OK, this is what we have right now,’” Fuentes said. “So in order to be able to compete, we need to work differently than we worked last year, because what worked for us last season is not going to work for us this year, and everybody needs to understand what we have and how we can use that in our favor.
“At the end of the day, this is for the girls,” he said. “I am trying to build this for the community, for people to enjoy and (for them) to want to come (to the games) every year, and other schools to come over and compete with us.”
As part of the culture, support within the girls is also key when it comes to team development.
“Everyone pushed each other to the fullest,” Burry said. “Even if you have a bad practice, there is someone always there to make sure you are doing good and getting better every day.”
One of the best qualities of the girls in the team, according to Fuentes, is their energy.
“At the end of the day, they are girls who want to have fun, they want to be together and they are coachable,” he said. “I’m happy to be here and (what makes them interesting to watch this season) I think it’s the energy that they have and the way they behave.”
During the 2022 volleyball season, the team is planning on focusing more on the collective and not so much in individual players.
“We have really good ball control, and all the big hitters can play right or left side, so that gives us more tools on the game,” Fuentes said. “That gives us more tools on the game so we are not necessarily playing the same roster with every team, so we may have more tools and more players that we can move around.”
The Wolverines will start their season with a home, non-district, game at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26, against Colonial High School.