Thursday, November 15, 2018
Sports

Volleyball marks Cristo Rey’s first foray into sports

TAMPA — Cristo Rey Tampa High School — a third-year institution that offers a Catholic college preparatory education to underserved students — wants the Tampa Bay area to know it’s around.

Principal Matt Torano said his school might have discovered the perfect advertising and marketing vehicle.

Its fledgling athletic program.

The Cristo Rey Panthers are off and running — and winning. The school’s opening sport (volleyball) won its first match (beating Pepin Academy) and packed the gym for its initial home contest (losing against St. Petersburg Catholic).

"We’re just getting started, but the excitement has been pretty electrifying and unifying,’’ Torano said. "More than almost anything else, it’s giving us an identity.

"People were saying, ‘Wow, we’re a real high school now.’ We have been in operation for a few years, but I think the traditional idea of a school having sports really helps to solidify what we have here. And in turn, when people notice our athletic teams, they will notice everything else we offer at the school as well.’’

Cristo Rey, located on the grounds of Mary Help of Christians Center in eastern Tampa, offers admission based on a family’s ability to pay (the maximum annual tuition is $500) and requires its students to work in the corporate world five times a month, which helps to defray expenses.

It’s one of 35 Cristo Rey schools (in 21 states), which are sponsored by the Salesians of Don Bosco. The unique work-study format has been attractive. The current enrollment of 164, with freshmen, sophomores and juniors leading into the school’s first graduating class in 2020, reflects steady growth. But Torano said the school lost a few students who wanted to play high school sports.

"This is a promise delivered,’’ Torano said. "We told them to be patient and to indicate their interest. We would get things going. And now things are going.’’

Cristo Rey will offer five varsity programs during this school year — volleyball, boys basketball, girls basketball, boys soccer and girls soccer — while having club teams in cross country, golf and tennis. It is cobbling together schedules in each sport.

Early in 2019, Cristo Rey plans to formally apply for membership in the Florida High School Athletic Association. Once approved, it can be placed in a district, where scheduling and competitions will be much more seamless.

"This is early, but our teams are showing that we are family, we are one,’’ said Cristo Rey athletic director John Davidson, a former football player at Tampa Catholic who has transitioned to education from the corporate world. "When we had our first home volleyball match, the teachers and students poured into the gym.

"I’m not sure how much they even knew about volleyball, but they were going absolutely crazy. It definitely united our school on a completely different level.’’

Of course, beginning a high-school athletic program from scratch brings unique challenges.

Coaches must be hired. Linda Cormier is the volleyball coach and Pete Mitchell is the basketball coach (the soccer coach hasn’t yet been finalized).

Opponents must be scheduled. Uniforms must be designed and ordered. Equipment and supplies must be stocked.

"I noticed at our first (road) volleyball match that the line judges had red flags,’’ Davidson said. "I thought, ‘Oh my gosh! We don’t have those?’ So we quickly ordered them. They came in the day of our first (home) match. I was getting worried. We did have volleyballs and a net, though. So I was grateful for that.’’

Torano and Davidson won’t put a ceiling on Cristo Rey’s athletic future, although there are practical considerations. Until the enrollment reaches higher levels, it’s unlikely that sports such as football and baseball will be added.

Davidson said he’s trying to think outside the box. One student asked about the archery pit located on the Mary Help of Christians grounds. The student quickly got nine commitments from interested students and was seeking an adult sponsor. There have been inquiries into swimming (a pool already exists) and Davidson has even wondered if Cristo Rey could form a team in the obscure high-school sport of fishing (the campus is next to Bellows Lake).

"As we move forward with this, the eighth-grade students around town will realize there’s a private-school athletic option besides Tampa Catholic, Jesuit, Berkeley Prep, Tampa Prep, the Academy (of Holy Names) and others,’’ Davidson said. "We’re committed to building and doing this the right way. We don’t have everything we need yet, but it’s a process.’’

Does Cristo Rey own a trophy case?

Davidson laughed.

"Not yet,’’ he said. "But we’ll look into it.’’

Contact Joey Johnston at [email protected]

Comments
George Kotis resigns for the second time at Tarpon Springs

George Kotis resigns for the second time at Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs football coach George Kotis has resigned after three seasons. Kotis made the decision Tuesday night. He went 13-16 in his second stint with the program.This season, Kotis had to do some long-distance coaching. For about a month, he was...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Major shakeup at WDAE: Peterson out, Diaz and Beckles return

Major shakeup at WDAE: Peterson out, Diaz and Beckles return

Ron & Ian returns and J.P. Peterson is out as WDAE shakes up its lineup.
Updated: 1 hour ago
Holder Bryan Anger is Lucy to Bucs’ ever-revolving list of Charlie Browns

Holder Bryan Anger is Lucy to Bucs’ ever-revolving list of Charlie Browns

Bryan Anger has had a toe-eyed view of the Bucs place-kicking woes over the past three seasons as the holder on field goals and extra points.
Updated: 1 hour ago
Cubs/ex-Rays manager Joe Maddon again helping Tampa Bay area homeless with Thanksmas events

Cubs/ex-Rays manager Joe Maddon again helping Tampa Bay area homeless with Thanksmas events

Maddon and his Respect 90 Foundation will provide PDQ meals, backpacks and socks at several area centers.
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs lineman Jason Pierre-Paul practices with club on right hand due to ‘sore finger’

Bucs lineman Jason Pierre-Paul practices with club on right hand due to ‘sore finger’

Bucs defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul participated in Thursday's practice wearing a bulky club on his right hand.
Updated: 1 hour ago
ESPN ranks potential NFL head-coaching openings; Bucs are second-worst

ESPN ranks potential NFL head-coaching openings; Bucs are second-worst

Bill Barnwell puts the Bucs next-to-last in his ranking of 10 potential NFL head coaching openings.
Updated: 1 hour ago
Will Tampa Catholic-CCC, Plant-Viera rematches live up to playoff predecessors?

Will Tampa Catholic-CCC, Plant-Viera rematches live up to playoff predecessors?

The play was designed for desperation."We call it Hero," Clearwater Central Catholic coach Chris Harvey said.Quarterback Rory Hicks dropped back, throwing the ball to the end zone. Receiver Brett Seither looked up, awaiting the fling from Hicks. Seit...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning pre-game: Get to know the Penguins

Lightning pre-game: Get to know the Penguins

Here's what you need to know ahead of the Lightning's matchup against the Penguins.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Jon Cooper: Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy out ‘indefinitely’

Jon Cooper: Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy out ‘indefinitely’

With Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy out, Louis Domingue will get the chance for some sustained time in the crease.
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs’ Todd Monken on decision to play Ryan Fitzpatrick: ‘We keep our jobs by winning’

Bucs’ Todd Monken on decision to play Ryan Fitzpatrick: ‘We keep our jobs by winning’

Monken said the only reason Fitzpatrick will start against the Giants is because he gives them a better chance to win than with Jameis Winston at quarterback
Updated: 5 hours ago