Berean Girls Team Ready As Volleyball Season Gets Underway

Berean’s Lily Young executes a successful block against the Pine School. Photos by Jenny Schartner

The girls varsity volleyball team at Berean Christian School has a new direction under a new head coach — Sam Skelton, a veteran South Florida volleyball coach who has been successful at other schools in the past.

Skelton has brought a sense of structure and optimism to the girls volleyball program at Berean. Last year, Skelton coached the girls volleyball team at the King’s Academy to the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) Class 3A regional semifinals.

Skelton’s arrival on campus has generated great interest in the girls volleyball program, which was evident during the summer break.

“When we had open gyms this summer, I was getting roughly 40 players in the gym to play volleyball,” Skelton said. “And for high school tryouts earlier this month, I had more than 40 players.”

While Skelton admits that he’s always optimistic at the beginning of every volleyball season, the mood and the vibe in the Berean gym during practice has been better than he expected, and it has been attention-getting.

“We have a pretty neat group of players, and I like the momentum, which has picked up since the first day of practice,” Skelton said. “I am impressed with the atmosphere in practice.”

Skelton is also impressed with the leadership and skill level of his four seniors: Ashley Hendricks, Renee Brown, Abigail Francis and Yemeli Tavares.

“At 6-foot-1, Ashley will be a key outside hitter for us. Renee is our top setter. Abigail is also a setter who provides valuable on-the-court leadership, while Yemeli is a great basketball player who will play middle for us,” Skelton said.

Skelton also has a few underclassmen who will fill important spots in the rotation.

One of his pivotal players will be junior Lily Young, who will play middle. Cami Echeverry will be Berean’s libero. One of the team’s new setters will be junior Evelyn Vejvoda. Sophomore Katelyn Baer is another talented outside hitter who Skelton is expecting big things from this season. And, Skelton’s daughter, Ellie Skelton, will also be a key outside hitter on the team.

“I think we’re going to surprise some people this year,” Skelton said. “This group is united and plays for one another. By the end of the regular season, this team will have improved a great deal since the beginning of the season.”

That kind of progress will bode well for the Bulldogs when they begin play in the FHSAA postseason district tournament in late October. Like all girls volleyball teams, they have the ultimate goal of reaching the FHSAA’s Class 2A girls volleyball final, which will be held on the campus of Polk State College in Winter Haven in early November.

The Bulldogs are 3-3 after their first six games. In their most recent game at home on Tuesday, Sept. 5 against Atlantic Christian Academy, Berean won in four sets.

“We lost the first set. It was a rough start because of the long [Labor Day] weekend and no practice,” Skelton said. “I think we gave them 18 of their 25 points. Then, we picked up and won the next three sets.”