The Foundation Christian Academy (FCA) volleyball team won the Sunshine State Athletic Conference (SSAC) championship last season, beating Pineapple Cove Classical Academy after having a shortened season in 2020 due to COVID -19. The Lady Panthers joined the SSAC this season and rose to the top in no time.
Junior outside/midfielder Faith Sullivan will always remember the end of the game in which FCA won its first SSAC volleyball championship in its history.
“The last set of the game, I was thinking, ‘We could win this’, and everyone was talking, especially Makayla (Harris), saying that ‘After this we’re going to Beef ‘O’ Brady’s’, and that’s what we were singing at the end. During the match, all the girls were cheering, and everyone wanted to win, but we also wanted to have fun, and that’s what we did.
Caitlin Smith, who has been with FCA for five years, two as assistant coach and three as head coach, was thrilled for her players after match point. She said her elders cried tears of joy because they were overwhelmed with happiness.
“I was very impressed because with our previous year we had to cut the season short due to COVID-related things, so I was really proud to see how far it had come after not having a season the year before,” Smith said. “There was a lot of screaming, a lot of excitement – the parents were jumping off the bleachers, very excited too.”
Smith was proud that her older players took on leadership roles this season and took the younger girls under their wing. With a lot of new faces on the roster, the upperclassmen did whatever it took to make the underclassmen feel comfortable, even if they had to switch positions. She said the team’s blocking skills had improved significantly and were their biggest asset.
The list included Kylie Monahan, Makayla Harris, Addi Horton, Catherine Abney, Faith Sullivan, Kai Rodriguez, Ella Kahikina, Ananda Phillip, Rebecca Rodiguez, Evie Repp, Sophia Caruso, Marissa Brankley, Klara Sheild and Lyla Regans.
“The team this year was so much fun,” Sullivan said. “It was just my first year playing volleyball for our school team. I will definitely continue to play. Coach Smith is so encouraging, and if you don’t get something she will tell you how to fix it. It helped me a lot, and that’s why I was able to be the best player I could be this year.
FCA will look to build on the success of last season and look to repeat as SSAC champions. The team will do training and conditioning over the summer and start training again in July with the season starting in early August. Smith will lose four seniors, but she expects at least half of her players to return next year.
“I love the teamwork and how no matter what kind of day everyone was having, they would bring a happy attitude to play and cheer on all the girls,” Sullivan said. “For the team something to work on is just remembering to have fun and remembering it’s just one game. Otherwise everyone is so nice and we’re all so close, we are like a brotherhood.