Cerline Hyppolite, the ninth of 10 siblings and the only girl, came along just in time for Edison volleyball.
The Red Raiders’ program had been a loser for years but started to turn around in 2008, when former Division II volleyball player Melissa Wray was given her first opportunity as a head coach.
Edison went winless in Wray’s first two seasons — 0-10 in ’08 followed by 0-12 — but won its season opener in 2010 when Hyppolite arrived as a freshman starter.
“As far as I know,” Wray said, “Edison hadn’t won a set in five years and hadn’t won a match in15 years before we beat Central that day.”
Edison went on to finish 2-10 that season and made a bigger breakthrough last year, advancing to the district semifinals and turning in a record of 5-6.
This year, Edison is off to a 5-4 start, led by Hyppolite, a 5-10 junior middle blocker. Edison fans yell “Hyp, Hyp hooray” after her spikes.
In all, the Red Raiders start five juniors and one freshman on a team that appears to have a bright future.
That’s in stark contrast to the team Wray inherited, which often struggled just to put six players on the court.
None of the players had club volleyball experience. In fact, Hyppolite and fellow Edison junior Christlene Amitie are the only current players with club volleyball experience, and even they just made their debuts on that circuit last season.
Even Edison’s uniforms were indicative of their level of play. At times, the team wore T-shirts and baggy shorts more commonly seen in basketball.
“We started out with pretty much nothing,” Hyppolite said. “I would see other teams come into our gym wearing volleyball uniforms, and I would think, ‘I’d like to have that one day.’ ”
That day arrived last season, when Wray convinced her athletic director to get new shorts and jerseys for the girls
Hyppolite, an aspiring accountant who has a 3.1 grade-point average while taking honors classes, is Edison’s team captain.
Wray said Hyppolite is easily the best talent she has coached and believes she has the ability to play in college. Scouts would surely prefer if Hyppolite grows another couple of inches and touches 10 feet. She currently touches 9-5, and her vertical leap of 25 inches is eight inches better than anyone else on her team.
Only 7 years old when her parents divorced, Hyppolite has been raised by her father in a house full of males. All eight of her older brothers were athletes at Edison, including four who played football, two who played soccer and two who wrestled.
Hyppolite, whose mother lives in Naples, said her upbringing has been an advantage.
“I haven’t had anyone go easy on me,” said Hyppolite, who is of Haitian ancestry. “It has taught me to be strong and competitive.”
Hyppolite hopes to be the first one in her family to play sports in college, and she has earned the respect of her teammates.
“She’s an outstanding leader because she takes a stand for what she believes is right,” Amitie said. “I will follow her anywhere.”
Wray hopes the Edison players follow Hyppolite all the way to the regional playoffs, which would be an amazing accomplishment considering where the program was just two years ago.
Edison’s turnaround might never have happened had Hyppolite followed through with her intentions to transfer out of Edison before even starting her freshman year.
But after meeting Wray, she decided to stay.
“I saw that our coach was willing to stay extra hours, willing to open the gym even when there was no school,” Hyppolite said. “She’s gone the extra mile.”
That was especially true on the occasions when Wray and her staff members have taken the kids to college matches at Florida Memorial so they can watch volleyball at a higher level.
“When I first started, I could see we didn’t have a lot of skill,” Hyppolite said. “But our coach wants us to be great, and we want that, too. I’m proud to be a Red Raider.”