CARROLLWOOD — The Carrollwood Day School volleyball team came close last year.
This year, the Patriots plan on kicking down the door.
With one senior and only two juniors, CDS is on the verge of building something special. The team is young and it has a first-year coach with Eric Praetorius. Unlike most teams, there is no big-time spiker, the one who is the intimidating face on the front line. It’s a team effort — everyone gets a chance to be the star.
It has worked. Entering October, the Patriots were 10-1 after a loss to Tampa Prep to start the month. And despite its youth, the team is starting to dream big.
The future actually began last year, before Praetorius even arrived. The Patriots went 19-6, one of the best years in school history. Praetorius moved to CDS from Wesley Chapel’s Wiregrass Ranch. Quickly, he knew he was at home at CDS.
“This is a special place,” he said. “I wanted to be here. I knew this was the right place.”
The CDS team is a tight group — they often finish each other’s sentences. “We are like a family here,” Nicole Ianni said. “It’s fun to be the only senior. It’s fun to watch everybody grow up. I love it here. We fell apart last year, but it will be different this year.”
Junior Aisling Sheehan said the team took last year for granted.
“We though that we had it all in the bag,” she said. “It’s got to be different this year.”
Almost everyone plays club volleyball, not necessarily on the same team. Volleyball is a year-round sport at CDS, so the girls know each other on the same and opposite sides of the net. Praetorius has known most of the girls for years now. Volleyball is like that, a sport where everybody knows everybody else.
“I knew the girls and I didn’t feel like I needed to make a lot of changes,” he said. “I just wanted to make them better. Winning is big, but it isn’t all that matters.”
Since the CDS girls say it is a team without stars, it helps keep egos in check.
“Everyone contributes something,” said sophomore Chrissy Brynjolfsson. “We aren’t one-dimensional. Everybody adds something.”
Still, someone has to stand out. Sheehan is one of the leaders in kills in Hillsborough County. Casey Brynjolfsson, who is the twin sister of Chrissy, is one of the top setters in the county.
CDS flies under the radar in most sports. As one of the smaller schools in the county, the Patriots don’t get the recognition they would like, but they are comfortable with that.
“I understand that we don’t get a lot attention, but we stick together,” Sheehan said. “We are a family here and we are like the little school that can.”