The girls varsity volleyball program from Palm Beach Central High School is thriving this season. Under new head coach Jose Rodriguez-Soto, the team is having a banner year and is a good bet to have a deep, postseason run in the upcoming Florida High School Athletic Association’s Class 7A postseason.
Rodriguez-Soto has brought a vision of what a high school varsity volleyball program should look like, and his players are committed to transforming his dream into reality.
“I have brought organization and a vision to re-shape the volleyball program at Palm Beach Central,” Rodriguez-Soto said. “The players believe in my vision and philosophy. They have been open to my new ideas.”
The volleyball players at Palm Beach Central are not the only individuals who agree with Rodriguez-Soto’s volleyball philosophy.
“Coach Jose has been a massive boost to our volleyball program. His passion for both the sport and the student-athletes has changed the culture within the program,” said Travis Abel, Palm Beach Central’s athletic director. “In terms of Xs and Os, we knew he was amazing, which is why we targeted him in the hiring process this past summer. All of this has taken place with an abbreviated preseason, so I can’t wait to see what is in store for our volleyball program going forward.”
As a result of Rodriguez-Soto’s game plan for success, the practices for the girls volleyball team have been competitive and filled with energy. On game day, Palm Beach Central has been winning the vast majority of its matches.
“Our practices have been phenomenal this season,” Rodriquez-Soto said. “We have a nucleus of players who are strong and talented.”
Right now, the Broncos are 15-4, and they have won 10 out of their last 12 matches. The most recent game was a five-set loss to crosstown rival Wellington High School on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
Despite the disappointing loss to Wellington, Rodriguez-Soto knows his team will learn from the loss and bounce back. “That loss is part of the game,” he said. “We will calibrate and get back.”
Palm Beach Central’s roster is filled with experience and youth.
“Our roster this fall includes eight seniors and five sophomores, plus one junior and one freshman,” Rodriquez-Soto said.
As expected, the seniors are leading by example — off the court, in practice, and in games.
Palm Beach Central’s two captains are senior middle hitter Tamia Coleman and senior libero Cassady Peggs. Both are invaluable members of the team.
“Tamia is a very athletic leader who understands and believes in our team philosophy,” Rodriguez-Soto said. “She is an excellent player who scores points for us at the net.”
Peggs, meanwhile, is the team’s proverbial “heart and soul.”
“Cassady is the backbone of our team,” Rodriquez-Soto said. “She does everything well for us. She is our best passer and also one of our top servers. She is also great at serve-receive. We try to keep her in the middle of the court.”
Another senior who is an important member of the team is outside hitter Reagan Lopez.
“Reagan is having an outstanding season and simply does things the right way,” Rodriquez-Soto said. “She understands what we are trying to do as a team, and she is teaching that philosophy to many of our younger players.”
During this current winning streak, the Broncos traveled to Key West to play four matches in two days in mid-September. When all was said and done, Palm Beach Central won each match, and the squad began to grow and gel as a unit.
“The tournament in Key West has been a big part of our season,” Rodriguez-Soto said. “Our players realized that our team can compete with any team, and we can control the flow of our games. The Key West tournament experience showed how united we are as a team. We established some great team chemistry during those two days.”
Moving forward, Palm Beach Central concludes its regular season on Thursday, Oct. 12 when the Broncos travel to play the Oxbridge Academy. After that, Palm Beach Central will play in the local Class 7A, District 8 single-elimination post-season tournament.
If the Broncos win that district tournament, then they will earn an automatic bid into the FHSAA’s Class 7A state tournament. If they stumble, they will have to wait for an at-large bid based on their state ranking. Palm Beach Central is expected to be the favorite to win the district tournament.
Rodriguez-Soto likes his team’s chances for the balance of the season because his squad is prepared, confident and focused.
“For us, our success is all due to preparation and being able to adjust in matches on the fly,” Rodriguez-Soto said. “We have a strong group of servers, passers, blockers, players who can serve-receive, and score points at the net with kills.”
The top two players in kills are Coleman and Lopez.
“We count on Tamia for points, and she likes that role for us,” Rodriguez-Soto said. “Reagan can hit the ball to any part of the court from any position.”
If the Palm Beach Central varsity girls volleyball team can continue its success for the balance of the regular season, that bodes well for the team’s journey into the FHSAA’s Class 7A playoffs.