Anticipation already building for next season, two recruits signed
By Devon Jeffreys
With their first season of NCAA Div. II ball in the books, the Flagler Volleyball team is already excited for what next year may hold.
“I think everybody’s excited. It’s almost like they can’t wait for next year to be here already,” Coach Taylor Mott said.
Profile: Carrie Arnette
The end of the 2006 season may have had a little to do with that excitement. The Saints went to Daytona Beach to take on the Embry-Riddle Eagles. Expecting a hostile crowd that has been a staple of the rivalry, Mott said the team was a little disappointed when the gym was nearly empty.
“I guess they just know we’re going to beat them, so they kind of gave up on that,” sophomore middle blocker Leah Melton said after the match. Beat Riddle they did as the Saints took the match in four games, 3-1 (30-27, 30-23, 27-30, 30-18).
With the win in hand, the Saints returned home for their final match of the season against Savannah College of Art and Design. With SCAD having defeated the Saints the last two seasons in the NAIA Region XIV Championship match, there was no love lost between the two teams.
Before the match, the Saints honored senior setter Carrie Arnette, the team’s only graduating player.
The emotion of the pre-match ceremony was quickly countered by SCAD who got out to a 15-4 lead and withstood short runs by the Saints to take the first game, 30-25. In the second game, Flagler came out on a mission and thumped SCAD thoroughly en route to a 30-20 game two victory.
Game three would feature back-and-forth play for most of the contest, but SCAD was able to pull away in the end. Game four went right along the same lines. Although the Saints were in it beginning to end, SCAD closed them out and took home the win.
For the Saints it was a disappointing way to end a successful season.
“It’s sad,” Melton said after the match. “The season is over and you never want to end on a loss. We worked hard and we know what we have to work on next season, so it’s a new beginning for us.”
For the Saints, the season’s success began with Melton and Justine Burkhardt.
“Leah did a good job of trying to bring the emotion to the team,” Mott said. “I think that’s huge because she was young and was willing to step up and be that vocal leader.” Melton ended the season third on the team in kills and first in blocks. Burkhardt led the team in kills and broke the Flagler single season kill record.
“I think being a freshman and breaking those records, just being a rock out on the floor, being consistent, I think was a huge accomplishment for her,” Mott said. She also thinks Burkhardt can be even better and hasn’t reached her potential yet. Mott also pointed to the strong play of Arnette, Caitie Culleton and Liz Moyer as sparks for the team this season.
The Saints will return 12 of 13 players next season, losing just Arnette, and have already signed two new recruits. They bring in Rebecca Royal, a 6’2″ setter from Fleming Island High School.
“You can’t teach height,” Mott said. “She’s just an athletic kid who is just like a sponge and willing to learn. I think she is a good fit for the program. She really wants to be at Flagler.”
The other recruit is Meg Weathersby who comes to Flagler from Orangewood Christian High School in Orlando. Weathersby is a middle blocker and outside hitter and was named post-season tournament MVP by the Orlando Sentinel as Orangewood Christian won its second straight state title.
“She’ll definitely compete for playing time,” Mott said. “She’s powerful, very athletic and a great passer. I think she’ll contribute right away.”
While the Saints have just one match scheduled so far, a Nov. 2 rematch with SCAD at Flagler Gym, they need to have at least 50 percent of their matches against Div. II opponents to keep up with their probationary requirements.
“I think it’s going to be a tough season,” Mott said. “But I think it’s going to be a good season. We’ve got a team full of girls that really want to be here and have all committed to working hard. I’m excited. I’d like to see where we stack up with a little bit more experience against some of the top level Div. II teams, and I really want to beat SCAD.”