Leaping toward new title
The Miami Dade College volleyball team is the reigning Florida Community College Athletic Association state champions. But for a team with eight national championships under its belt, expectations are always higher.
“Hopefully this year we can play together and get to be national champions,” said head coach Origenes “Kiko” Benoit, who was named Southern Conference Coach of Year last season. “Every year we have to create high expectations that we will be better. I’m expecting to do better year after year.”
The squad finished the 2009 season with a 32-5 record including a 12-0 mark in the Southern Conference. With all of its key contributors from last year returning—except for Sandra Montoya (the No. 1 ranked player in the Southern Conference), who received a scholarship to the University of West Florida and Anne Stebner-Chala, who is expected to sign a pro contract in Germany—Benoit believes his team is poised to make progress on last season when they finished fifth in the nation.
Returning players include Yenifer Calcano, named to the National Junior College Athletic Association All-American secondteam, right side opposite hitter Mima Hajdukovic, who was selected to the FCCAA All-State Team, and sophomore Joana Alvarez, a Southern Conference second-team selection last year.
“I felt happy. We had a good chemistry,” Hajdukovic said about last year’s team. “Hopefully we’ll get better nationally.”
In addition, redshirt freshmen opposite hitter Edgaris Franshesca Leon is making a comeback after missing all of last year due to health-related kidney issues.
Leon said she has high hopes for the upcoming season.
“I couldn’t play all last year so I am looking forward to it,” Leon said. “I have a lot of faith in my girls.”
The team’s talent pool will also be bolstered by its incoming freshman class. It includes:
Christian High School), middle blocker, Stephanie Toledo (Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School), middle blocker, MariFrachi Rodriguez (Dominican Republic)—who Benoit called the best shot blocker he has seen in a while—and defensive specialist Rosan Rivera (La Salle High School).
“On paper this team is stronger than last year’s team,” Benoit said.
The team will get a chance to prove it early on. It starts its season on Friday, August 27 at the CSI Invitational Tournament in Twin Falls, Idaho. The NJCAA defending national champion— the College of Southern Idaho— will participate in the tournament.