The daughter of military parents, Matanzas volleyball player Brianna Whitfield has a unique perspective on life outside of the U.S.
When you ask Brianna Whitfield where she’s from, she can’t come up with an answer. She doesn’t consider herself from one place. The daughter of parents in the U.S. Air Force, Whitfield has lived in several places.
She was born in Panama City, Florida, but from the age of 6 to 10, she lived near the Aviano Air Base in northern Italy.
She made friends there, she learned the language and she grew accustomed to the culture.
She moved back to Panama City when she reached middle school and moved to Palm Coast before the start of her freshman year at Matanzas High School, but her out-of-country experiences have given Whitfield a whole new perspective on life.
“There’s so many people who don’t understand that there’s another way to live,” said Whitfield, now 16 and a sophomore at Matanzas. “There’s so much ignorance in the world, and I don’t want that for myself.”
But one part of herself has stayed the same throughout her life. It’s been maintained through thousands of miles of travel: her passion to succeed.
Whitfield first touched a volleyball when she was in sixth grade. It was as if it were a foreign object.
It immediately piqued her interest.
She joined Volley for Christ, a local church league in Panama City.
She tried out for her middle school team in seventh grade. After that, she started playing club.
"Bri is extremely intense — in a good way. She wants success, and she's going to push her teammates to reach that. She's the poster child of what we want for our school."
Matanzas head coach Julie Menendez
Her superb leaping ability has always been her standout skill.
When she first started playing, she struggled with hand-eye coordination, she was skinny and she lacked power on her shots.
Since reaching the high school level, her talent has blossomed.
Whitfield played on Matanzas’ varsity team as a freshman in 2017 and was dominant this past season for the Pirates. With her unique athletic ability, she was able to help lead the Pirates to an 11-win season, including consecutive victories over crosstown rival Flagler Palm Coast.
It was in the Pirates’ last game against the Bulldogs, a five-set win on Oct. 11, where fans and teammates got to see her more fiery side.
It was an emotional game. The Pirates sent the Bulldogs packing on FPC’s Senior Night.
“I see the best in people, so when they don’t play to their potential, it fires me up,” Whitfield said. “I know what I can play up to, and I know what my teammates can play up to.”
She also plays for DME Academy’s club team. When the high school season is over, Whitfield practices three times per week and works out twice per week with the club team. She works out on her own on Sundays.
Her goal is to one day play volleyball for a Division I team, some of which have already showed interest in her abilities. She knows she’s going to play in college. She just doesn’t know where yet.
Beyond that, she wants to resume traveling the world again, and volleyball might be the tool to help her accomplish that.
“To live and be outside of my comfort zone is crazy,” she said. “I miss it.”