Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Knights volleyball redefines itself with new coach, new attitude

TAMPA — There isn't much of a volleyball history at Robinson.

The Knights haven't won a district title in 32 years. Last year, they won just two games, one by forfeit. In fact, this year, they entered August without a head coach.

That's what makes this fall's rebirth so remarkable. The Knights head into tonight's district home match against Steinbrenner with an opportunity to take first place in Class 4A-9.

"This year is a complete turnaround," said first-year coach Ryan Wheatley, an active-duty Air Force medic at MacDill who was an assistant coach last season before taking the head coaching job. "Listening to the stories coming in, I just thought, 'Okay, let's see how it goes.' The whole mentality has changed around a lot."

The Knights (6-4) have won six of their past seven, including a three-set win over Strawberry Crest last week that set the stage for tonight's matchup between the only teams unbeaten in district play.

"We been training the entire year for that," said sophomore right-side hitter Sophia Tahiri. "Once we started winning games we began to think, 'Yeah, we can do this.' We actually had faith in ourselves."

A youth movement has changed the mentality at Robinson. Sophomore libero Leslie Gibson leads Hillsborough County with digs (5.1 a game). The Knights' starting setter, Melissa Weathers, is a freshman, and freshman middle hitter Lexi Gaertner, the team's leading blocker, has emerged as a front-row presence.

"Once we got girls in the right positions, it all kind of just came together," said captain Nicole Mello, the team's only starting senior. "Even out of school you feel different. Before people used to say, 'Oh, you go to Robinson, you guys aren't good.' Now you have that sense of accomplishment that you are good."

There's a special eye on that lonely district title banner from 1978 hanging in the gymnasium.

"They look at that banner every day where it says the last district win was 1978," Wheatley said. "They look up at that and they all say we want to have our year up there and that determination shows every day."

Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at [email protected]

Knights volleyball redefines itself with new coach, new attitude 10/07/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 7, 2009 9:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs' Vernon Hargreaves: 'I'm not making any plays'


    TAMPA — Eli Manning gathered his receivers together on the sideline during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and told them he planned to target the weakest link of the secondary all afternoon.

    Patriots receiver Chris Hogan gets position in front of Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for a 5-yard touchdown pass in New England’s win on Oct. 5.
  2. Lightning's J.T. Brown to stop anthem protest, focus on community involvement

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lightning wing J.T. Brown will no longer raise his first as a protest during the national anthem before games.

    J.T. Brown says he will work more with the Tampa police and groups that serve at-risk young people.
  3. Signs point to Jameis Winston dressing vs. Bills


    TAMPA — The Bucs didn't sign another quarterback Wednesday, which would suggest they are confident that Jameis Winston can be active as a backup to Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday at Buffalo if he doesn't start.

  4. FSU doesn't feel need for ongoing reminder of last year's beatdown at Louisville


    Of course Florida State remembers what happened against Louisville last year. The 63-20 loss was one of the worst defeats in Seminoles history.

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson looks back at the action from the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Murray State, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
  5. Goodell: NFL not changing its national anthem policy


    NEW YORK — In the face of fan unrest and accusations from the president about the league being unpatriotic, the NFL is not changing its national anthem policy to require players to stand.

    NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference, Wednesday in New York. [AP Photo/Julie Jacobson]