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After losing all six starters and returning only three players from a year ago, the Matanzas volleyball team’s practices and workouts leading up to the season took on greater meaning for Pirates first-year head coach Julie Menendez and her players.
“That is an obstacle we will work through because I have six brand new starters on the court and a whole bench that has not played together before,” Menendez said in an email. “I don’t really think it is a great problem because all of the girls have known each other from other sports, just not played together in volleyball.”
Coach Rob Roe left as head coach after last season to spend more time with his family after the birth of his first son, Menendez said. He’s now coaching the bowling team.
Menendez, who was the junior varsity coach last season, said she’s been impressed with the speed of her team and the girls’ work ethic.
“I do not work at the high school, and every day when I get to practice the team has set up the nets and are waiting for me to begin,” Menendez said.
She added that three weeks prior to the tryouts she had 25 players showing up for optional conditioning and weightlifting sessions that didn’t involve any time on the courts with volleyballs.
Menendez was able to keep the focus on conditioning and weightlifting over the summer and wait to implement her offense until later, largely, she says, because of the skills her players developed playing for club teams.
“They have come into this season with more playing time experience and have learned tips and skills from different coaches,” Menendez said.
The Pirates will run a 5-1 offense this season. Menendez said her offense will emphasize specific roles for each player, be it as a hitter, setter or defensive specialist.
Melissa Cote, Gabriella Paiz and Kelsey Lukes are the three returning players from last season and all will be juniors this year. Menendez said she expects Paiz and Lukes to be in the starting lineup with newcomers Jessica Malmsten, Andrea Menendez, Nina Espinoza and Gabrielle Prickett. But she added that nothing has been finalized at this point.
Julie Menendez started playing volleyball in seventh grade and earned a scholarship to Palm Beach Atlantic University where she was a setter.
She took her first coaching position in 1994 as the JV coach at Flagler Palm Coast High School. Menendez left that position after a season, and three years ago she helped start the Flagler Elite Volleyball Club with current JV coach Eva Espinoza.
“Several of the girls that are a part of the club teams have benefited from the extra play and are now a part of our high school team,” Menendez said. “There are also many players from the club team that are players at FPC this year as well.”
Lauren “Gracie” Emery
Date, Opponent, Varsity
Aug. 30 @ FPC 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 4 @ Menendez 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 6 @ Palatka 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 11 Warner Christian 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 13 Nease 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 20 Ponte Vedra 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 22 @ Seabreeze Varsity Tournament TBA
Sept. 25 @ Nease 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 26 @ St. Augustine 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 @ Fla. School Deaf and Blind Varsity Tournament
Sept. 29 @ Fla. School Deaf and Blind Varsity Tournament
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