Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

At PHCC, champion volleyball team's spirit thrives despite cutbacks

With every tax-supported institution in Florida under the gun to cut expenses, Bobby Bowman went to his boss with a painful plan.

Bowman is the architect of athletics at Pasco-Hernando Community College. He was there when they chose a mascot and colors. In his 20th and final year before retiring, he is fiercely proud of his teams' statewide respectability. But as the fall semester approached, he found himself with the unpleasant task of recommending cuts in scholarships that would make it harder to recruit.

No longer would the college pay for its basketball, baseball and volleyball players' apartments and meals, a distinction that would move them from Division I to Division II in the National Junior College Athletic Association.

Kim Whitney, who in seven years as head volleyball coach had compiled a 167-67 record, met with each player. She didn't want them to leave PHCC. "I told them we had something special going here," Whitney recalled, "that we had a chance to be really good."

The team stayed together.

"We had to get jobs," said Ashley Seal, a returning sophomore from the Orlando area who was in line to be team captain. "But we all wanted to stay here and finish. We had become friends as well as teammates, and Coach Whitney is amazing."

The result: A national championship.

In a chilly dome in Wisconsin, the Conquistadors slashed their way through teams ranked above them in the national polls before capturing the title on Nov. 20 with a five set victory over Johnson Community College of Overland Park, Kansas.

Dr. Kathy Johnson, PHCC's president, couldn't make the trip, but she got a virtual play-by-play via text messages. With every point, team trainer Mary Manning sent a text to Bob Bade, assistant dean for student services, who was home in New Port Richey. Bade, in turn, sent messages to Johnson in Gainesville.

"Every time they scored, I'd text," Bade said. "I wore out my thumbs."

"I can't tell you how excited we were that night," said Johnson. "We were hollering and cheering."

The championship didn't get much notice in the media, occupied by the usual Thanksgiving week football games. And since students were off for the holiday, it took a while for word to get around. But on campus last week, students and instructors were beaming and planning a celebration for Thursday.

"I wish you could have seen the joy that I saw in those girls' eyes" when they got off the plane, said Bowman. "They were so proud."

Coach Whitney, who also teaches business classes, agreed. But she still had the players running wind sprints in the gym. "She keeps pushing," said Seal, the setter who was named MVP of the national tournament. "She keeps us — and herself — in top condition."

Whitney, 33, played high school volleyball at Clearwater Central Catholic when her name was Kim Zschau. (She is married to Frank Whitney, a Clearwater firefighter.) She earned a full scholarship at Kansas State University, where she still holds several records. She played for the U.S. Women's National Team in 2001 and has played professionally, both indoor and beach volleyball.

"Winning a national title has always been a dream of mine," she said. "It's especially gratifying because I know how hard my players worked."

Three of them — Seal, Tazra Pitts of Houston and Desiree Ates of Saskatchewan — were honored late last week as All Americans. They expect to continue playing at four-year colleges.

Meanwhile, Whitney figures the national championship will help her recruit more outstanding athletes to PHCC, despite the reduction of scholarship money.

"We've established something here," she said. "We'll keep it going."

>>phcc conquistadors national champs

Celebrate their victory

The Conquistadors will be celebrated at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in front of the performing arts center at the New Port Richey campus. The team members are Ashley Seal, Altamonte Springs; Marlie Temple, British Columbia; Gladys Chaparro, Kissimmee; Jessica Christianson, Hudson; Tazra Pitts, Houston; Quynn Fonseca, Brooksville; Morgan Hill, West Palm Beach; Lisa Kerns, Hudson; Chelsey Sanderson, Phelan, Calif.; Desiree Ates, Saskatchewan; Lynnette Shannonhouse, Melbourne; Jessica Imbimbo, Hudson; Stacey Block, Saskatchewan; and Torii Koester, Winter Garden. Kim Whitney is head coach, assisted by Brian Kachurak and trainer Mary Manning.

At PHCC, champion volleyball team's spirit thrives despite cutbacks 12/04/10 [Last modified: Saturday, December 4, 2010 3:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rubio praises Trump for 'excellent' speech on Afghanistan


    Sen. Marco Rubio praised President Donald Trump's "excellent" speech on Afghanistan.

  2. Gov. Rick Scott blasts report of shifting words on Charlottesville


    Gov. Rick Scott, one of the most scripted politicians in recent Florida history, said Monday that ‘both sides” bore blame for Charlottesville.

  3. Record $417 million awarded in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer


    LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million to a hospitalized woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene.

    A bottle of Johnson's baby powder is displayed. On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman confirmed that a jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in a case to a woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene. [Associated Press]
  4. Search under way for missing sailors; Navy chief orders inquiry


    SINGAPORE — The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

    Damage is visible as the USS John S. McCain steers toward Singapore’s naval base on Monday.
  5. Told not to look, Donald Trump looks at the solar eclipse


    Of course he looked.

    Monday's solar eclipse — life-giving, eye-threatening, ostensibly apolitical — summoned the nation's First Viewer to the Truman Balcony of the White House around 2:38 p.m. Eastern time.

    The executive metaphor came quickly.

    President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump view the solar eclipse from the Truman balcony of the White House, in Washington, Aug. 21, 2017. [Al Drago | New York Times]