Former volleyball teammates' paths converge as teachers and coaches

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Mon. October 3, 2011 | Eduardo A. Encina

Former volleyball teammates' paths converge as teachers and coaches

TAMPA — Margeaux Sinibaldi and Amy Rumore shared the most indelible moment of their volleyball careers five years ago as teammates on the University of Tampa’s Division II national championship team.

The culmination of that 35-1 season was undoubtedly a remarkable accomplishment. But equally interesting is how these friends’ paths will cross again tonight at Plant High.

Both are rookie volleyball coaches. Sinibaldi, a two-time All-American libero at UT, will guide her young Bloomingdale team in a pivotal district game on Tuesday night against a Panthers team led by Rumore, a backup setter on Spartans’ title team.

Coaching is nothing new to either woman. They both worked camps throughout college and coach for the Tampa United club program, but now are guiding two of the top high school programs in talent-rich Hillsborough County.

University of Tampa coach Chris Catanach said he’s not surprised to see both of them leading their own programs.

“Both of them are great learners because they’re both open to ideas,” Catanach said. “I would stack them up against a lot of people who have been coaching for a while because they’ve played at a high level and they’ve escalated their coaching through club.”

How they landed here was a combination of determination and fate. Rumore, 27, served three years as an assistant under Leanna Taylor, who took the head coaching job at Division II Queens College in the spring after winning five straight state titles at Plant.

Two summers ago, Sinibaldi returned to the bay area hoping to land a teaching job. She did so at Bloomingdale and assisted another former UT teammate, Danielle Leffler. After Leffler guided the Bulls to the region tournament for the first time in four years, she suddenly left her post.

Sinibaldi, 25, initially turned down the invitation to apply for the job, but Rumore talked her into it while both were coaching a UT summer camp.

“She said, ‘If you don’t ever try it, you’ll regret it,’ ” Sinibaldi said. “I just started thinking to myself, ‘Margeaux, you’re an idiot to not do it, because you love coaching.’ ”

That competitiveness was honed at UT, where Sinibaldi, who turned down an offer from Florida to play for the Spartans, was one of the program’s top players. Catanach said Rumore, a Plant alum who won two state titles as a Panthers player, was a natural to coach because she learned the game from watching on the bench. Despite their varying roles, they both learned how to win.

“When we played teams, there were some times when we won just because we were Tampa and we were supposed to win,” Sinibaldi said. "We had that mentality, but also that team across the net, it was ingrained in their heads they were going to lose. As a coach, you try to teach that.”

Off the court, both coaches boast about the other’s accomplishments. Rumore talks about how Sinibaldi has become the coordinator of Blooomingdale’s AVID program, which helps students prepare for college, in just her second year on the faculty. Sinibaldi is quick to mention Rumore just got her master’s degree in education.

Sinibaldi is now taking classes to get her master’s in education, so Rumore has offered advice. And Rumore, a first-year high school English teacher, gladly accepts advice from Sinibaldi, who was an English major at UT and taught the subject last year at Bloomingdale.

“Margeaux and I are the type of people that if we’re not busy and moving forward, we’re moving backward,” Rumore said. “We’re so paralleled with what we’re doing that we’re a great support system for each other.”

Their teams, however, are markedly different. As the coach of the top public school program in the bay area, Rumore faces the pressure of living up to the past — eight titles in 10 years for Plant (12-4, 3-0). Bloomingdale (8-6, 3-0), which has been to the state tournament just once, is stocked with young talent and can have as many as four freshmen on the court at one time.

Tuesday’s match could decide the top seed in the Class 8A, District 7 tournament, where the teams would likely meet again.

“We love each other but when it’s game time we’re both going to want to win — for ourselves, for our programs, for our girls,” Rumore said. “Since we’ve both tasted so much success, neither one of us wants to fail.”

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