Viera volleyball has high ceiling of potential


Led by seniors Lina Ruiz, left, Kendall Mall, Cailea Gibbs, Ariana Casingal and Danee Smith, the Viera High volleyball team has a chance to have one of its best seasons ever.

photo by Carl Kotala

With nine returning players and six returning starters back from last year’s team, the Viera High volleyball team has the talent to do something special this season.

“Potentially, it has the possibility to be one of our best teams,” Hawks coach Sarah Wayne said. “But they have to figure out what it’s going to take to play at a high level.”

With players like senior Cailea Gibbs, a standout middle blocker who recently committed to the University of North Florida, the Hawks certainly don’t lack for motivation.

Gibbs and nearly all of her teammates played club volleyball in the offseason, with some even making the drive to play for the Orlando Volleyball Academy.

“We’ve gotten so much better in the offseason,” Gibbs said. “It’s not really pressure for the seniors, but it is our last year of high school and we want to leave a legacy in some way.”

Other seniors hoping to leave their mark are setter Lina Ruiz, right-side hitter Danee Smith, middle blocker Kendall Mall and right side/middle Ariana Casingal.

Together, the Hawks are an impressive group.

“Offensively, we’re really strong,” Wayne said. “We have multiple players who can do multiple things from all different positions. And we have good height. We’re tall this year.

“And this core group of kids has been together for a while.”

That experience of playing together should really pay off because the players know each other on and off the court so well. They are also eager to wipe away the memory of last year’s 14-12 season.

“It’s going to help just because we’re starting where we left off last year,” Gibbs said. “We were disappointed. We had high hopes last year and we didn’t quite fulfill what we were (aiming for).

“But we have gotten a few extra people and we’re all reaching toward a common goal and I think we’re going to be really successful this year.”

The Hawks, who opened the season Aug. 24 at Astronaut, will face a key early-season stretch in September with three straight matchups against district opponents Melbourne (Sept. 2), St. Cloud (Sept. 3) and Celebration (Sept. 8). The annual Pink Game is set for Oct. 13 against Holy Trinity.

If the idea of leaving a legacy isn’t enough motivation, all the Hawks have to do is remember the feeling they had when the school’s girls golf and soccer teams both won state championships.

 “Just seeing them as a team, it really makes you motivated to experience that with your team yourself,” Gibbs said. “… Golf and soccer, we want to be a part of that. Even if we don’t make it to state, we want to be up there on that banner somewhere.”