SEMINOLE — Osceola’s volleyball history hangs on the north wall of the school’s gym for all to see. Wedged between banners from other sports, it reads “Volleyball District Champions: ’83.”
There is plenty of room to add on, but the Warriors haven’t been able to do it for 30 years. In 2011, Osceola advanced to the region semifinals for the first time as a district runnerup — but lost to Lakewood Ranch.
This season, the Warriors find themselves in the same position with district nemesis Mitchell awaiting.
“Our objective this year was to put a ’13 next to that ’83,” coach Ryan Kramer said. “I told the girls that I was 6 when that number was printed. We have to do something about it. So let’s replace a district (banner) with a regional banner. Let’s celebrate a regional win on their floor like they celebrated a district win on our floor.”
The fact that Osceola ended up in the second round of this season’s region tournament is a bit surprising.
After the 2011 season, the Warriors graduated seven players. Only two players with any volleyball experience, setter Hayley Misewich and outside hitter Emily Barton, returned for the 2012 season. Kramer said tryouts were eye opening.
“I coached middle school volleyball 10 years ago, and that is what it was like,” Kramer said. “It was awful. I told them I’m going to take the top 10 athletes. That’s how we had to do it.”
Also a track and field coach, Kramer said he had to recruit some of his better athletes for volleyball. High jumper Jeanna Cube became a right side hitter. Pole vaulter Jen Kistemaker became a middle hitter.
They really didn’t have a choice.
“I just said, ‘Hey, you’re going to do this,’ ” Kramer said with a laugh. “I need you to block some volleyballs.”
The result has been a competitive team that has a chance to make school history.
Osceola (14-9) has lost to Mitchell three times this season, twice in five games and once in four games at the district final. Mitchell has won 19 straight matches.
“They are huge,” Kramer said. “They have giants up front. They really gave us a hard time this year. Our focus is to not go through them. We have to put the ball where their defenders won’t be.”
Despite the losing streak to Mitchell, Osceola is confident. The Warriors were 0-7 in five-game matches prior to beating King in five games at the region quarterfinals.
“I didn’t think we would get this far,” said Misewich, who has 601 assists. “When we play as a team we are really good, but when we don’t we just fall apart. We’ll beat a team 25-12 and then the next game we’ll lose. We’re getting better at communicating.”
Barton, who averages three kills per game, said beating King last week was a big boost.
“That was our first time ever winning in five,” Barton said. “It was nerve wracking. But I think we have more confidence now.”
Kramer has seen his team improve since the rebuilding project of 2012. He believes the Warriors are equipped to get to a region final for the first time.
“Earlier in the year we struggled with everyone not knowing their role and trying to do everyone’s job,” Kramer said. “As we move on, they are getting a lot more comfortable just doing their role. That’s made the difference for us.
“And when you’ve got a setter like Hayley, who gets to everything, who is super athletic and willing to outwork everybody else, and then a hitter like Emily, who hits the dog snot out of the ball, and a libero like Katie (Newman), it’s easy to build around that.”
7 p.m. Tuesday
8A: Bloomingdale at Palm Harbor University
6A: Osceola at Mitchell
3A: Sarasota Out-of-Door at Clearwater Central Catholic
Rodney Page can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RodneyHomeTeam.