Paulina Prieto, Arasay Guerra and Gaby Jaimes aren’t common household names.
At Palmer Trinity School, they are a reminder of the school’s rich volleyball tradition.
But while the Falcons have been good the past five seasons, they have watched as other rival teams such as Westminster Christian and Ransom Everglades surge to greatness, culminating with last season’s state championships that ended a near two-decade drought for Miami-Dade County.
“What Westminster and Ransom did last year was phenomenal for Dade County athletes,” Palmer Trinity coach William Gonzalez said of his rivals. “It’s brought recognition for all of our players.
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“South Florida volleyball is considered to be competitive and on an equal level now statewide where that wasn’t always the case years ago,” he continued.
If Palmer Trinity continues to play the way it has through the first month of the season, it could be the Falcons’ turn to join in the county’s success.
Palmer Trinity has been no stranger to the state tournament in recent years, advancing to state twice from 2005-2008 and making a couple of regional finals appearances.
With stars such as Guerra (played at FIU), now an assistant coach at the school, Prieto (University of Texas) and Jaimes (played at FIU), Palmer Trinity was the first school to reverse the trend and play competitive volleyball with some of Florida’s best at the championship level.
This season, however, Gonzalez said he doesn’t have one clear superstar as he did on prior teams.
Senior outside hitter Ellie Nosich (5-9), junior middle hitter Grace Hibshman (6-1), sophomore middle hitter Ashley Quero (6-0) and senior libero Kristen Fernandez (5-2) have all received interest from colleges, according to Gonzalez.
The team’s balance is a reason for its 12-1 start.
“The team has really come together this season because most of our players have been here for four or five years,” Fernandez said.
Added Nosich: “A lot of us were young players when Paulina was here and we know what those teams accomplished, and we really want to get to state.”
Palmer Trinity already has defeated rival Westminster Christian in the team’s first match, and scored wins over Chaminade-Madonna and four wins at the Northside Christian tournament this past weekend.
The Falcons will face Calvary Christian on Tuesday, compete in the Chaminade Invitational this weekend, and play Gulliver and Cardinal Gibbons this season.
“We’ve developed our team chemistry over time and it’s helped our good start,” Quero said.