Look at their 13-2 record as they head into the final week of their regular season and you would never know that two months ago the girls volleyball program at Miami Springs High School was up in the air and in total disarray.
That’s because, with a new coach in place, having been hired the previous May, everything blew up in smoke when all of a sudden, there was no coach.
One week before school, the gentleman, who lived in Panama City up in the Panhandle, phoned athletic director Craig Jay and basically gave him the “after further review” story, changing his mind not wanting to move down to South Florida.
What to do? Jay got busy and scrambled, asking Melba Alfonso, the school’s treasurer, if she could help out. Alfonso made a few phone calls. One of them was to former coach Danny Perez, who threw a name at her: Natalia Davila.
Soon after, the girls volleyball program had its last-minute replacement coach, someone with impressive background credentials having played high school volleyball at Coral Park, college volleyball at St. Thomas University and currently coaching a club team.
Through all of the last-minute turmoil and uncertainty, the Lady Hawks haven’t wavered a bit. Playing some terrific volleyball, they swept Carol City in straight sets last week to move their overall record to 13-2, their only two losses coming to district powerhouse Mourning.
“When they first contacted me, I had already been asked to help out at both Doral Academy and Gulliver,” said Davila. “But when Springs asked me, I told them I had my full-time job at Carnival Cruise Lines and that my time would be very restricted. I talked with Melba and told them I could help them out but they would have to work around my schedule.”
And, like some folks like to say sometimes, it all worked out in the end.
“Melba has handled the administrative stuff and helped out coaching and done a great job while I’ve handled the skill-teaching and coaching end of things,” said Davila, who has worked as an analyst in the revenue management department for Carnival for the last 13 years.
But the other end of the equation was how the players would respond to such a helter-skelter last-minute change and have a brand new coach thrust on them.
“The girls have really responded well,” said Davila. “They get excited when they see me, they know my skills, know the passion I have towards the game, they know my knowledge and experience that I have and know that my goal is to give them and share with them my knowledge. They have the basic skills, they just needed somebody to lead them there. Just a little push and guidance.”
Springs started the season off 3-0 before suffering their first loss to Mourning. Three more wins followed, then a second loss to Mourning.
“It was really hard and at first we thought we actually might not have a season and it was disappointing because volleyball is my passion,” said junior Nicole Borroto, one of the team’s co-captains. “The one thing it allowed was that we kind of really pulled together as a team. I wasn’t sure if I would be a co-captain at first but when I was, it definitely was a big responsibility for me.”
“It was crazy because honestly we really didn’t have a decent coach last year either, so when we started getting ready for this season and then found out we didn’t have a coach, it was tough,” said senior Melissa Rojas, the team’s other co-captain. “It was actually more of working and conditioning here and a little hard to step up because I’m only a player but at some point you just have to step up and say this is the last time you’re going to play volleyball. Once the rest of the players on the team realized they didn’t have somebody like that to push them, they started pushing themselves.”
And just like that, here they are coming out the other side at 8-2 and trying to find a way to solve the “Mourning puzzle.”
“It was definitely up in the air because everybody looked like they might want to quit at first,” said Rojas. “What changed? Honestly, when they realized there was more than one person graduating from this team and they wanted to do it for somebody else instead of themselves. Everybody had to push to do it right.
“It’s crazy and I’m really proud of this team. It’s an effort between everyone, a total team effort. Everybody pitches in, not just one person standing out but standing out collectively.”