VALRICO — First-year Bloomingdale volleyball coach Margeaux Sinibaldi showed off the gold ring she won as a member of the University of Tampa's NCAA Division II national championship team in 2006.
She also wore dangling gold earrings — part of her goal to wear gold during every match for the rest of the season — as a reminder to her young Bulls that they are playing for the precious metal every night.
For a program that has advanced to the region tournament just once since 2006, Sinibaldi said one of her main goals is teaching her players a winning mentality — how to fight for victory.
And after Tuesday's five-game win over Riverview, in which the Bulls came back from a two-games-to-none hole, she could smile.
"That's a huge growth experience for us because being two down that takes a lot of inner drive," Sinibaldi said following the Bulls' 20-25, 20-25, 25-18, 25-18, 15-13 win. "They have to want it. Our girls have to play to win instead of playing not to lose."
Bloomingdale (6-4), which has three to four freshmen on the court at any time, was coming off a forgettable 1-3 showing at this weekend's Hillsborough Community College tournament.
"When you get this feeling, you want to get this feeling every single time," Bulls senior libero Danielle Jenkins said. "You want to learn how to fight for this feeling every time. I think our confidence will go way up as a team."
Bulls freshman outside hitter Karissa Rhoades led Bloomingdale with 13 kills, while junior right-side hitter Brandy Higgins added 10 kills and freshman middle blocker Kaitlyn Grice had six. Junior setter Alyssa Rovnanik had 39 assists.
The biggest play of the match came in the fifth and deciding game. With Bloomingdale clinging to a 10-8 lead, senior Allie McFee made a diving save in the front row, the ball deflected off another Bloomingdale player and Jenkins blindly reached her hand out to hit the ball off the top of the net and just over it for a point.
"When that ball hits off the net, that's like the volleyball gods trying to tell you something," Sinibaldi said.