Crespo Hits Ground Running
LAND O' LAKES - Aixa Crespo is making her mark fast. Just days after Sunlake named her the volleyball coach, Crespo has managed to bring the Central Florida Volleyball Club to her school to conduct a camp not only for her players, but for those in the area interested in the sport. "I started with this camp because this is a coach I knew from Puerto Rico," she said. "He was a coach of the national team in Puerto Rico." She explained her brother-in-law played volleyball with the camp's director, Carlos Pizarro, on the Puerto Rican national team and once Pizarro's playing days finished, he dove into coaching.For 24 years, Pizarro coached in the Puerto Rico Volleyball Federation at every level, including men's and women's teams. In that league, Pizarro was named Coach of the Year six times. He also founded "Escuela Nacional de Voleibol" (National School of Volleyball) in 1987. Considering the way the athletic programs at Sunlake had to start their summer conditioning for the 2007-08 seasons - commuting to Pine View Middle School - this is a huge turnaround. "This is the first time," Crespo said of the camp being held at Sunlake. "Last year we didn't even have the gym in the summer because the school wasn't done." For Crespo, her new job title is a dream come true. After three full seasons as an assistant coach at Nature Coast Technical High School under Maria Garcia (2003-05), she entered the 2006 season as an assistant. That changed when Garcia resigned in September 2006, leaving Crespo to coach the squad. That season, Crespo coached the team to the Class 4A-District 8 final against Hudson, which Hudson won. Now, she goes into the season knowing she has the top job. "I'm really excited to have the opportunity because I thought I would have the opportunity at Nature Coast and they didn't give it to me," she said. "When I came to Sunlake, I was willing to be the assistant coach again because it's never too late to start again. I didn't get the chance at Nature Coast, so I saw a chance here and I came up as the assistant coach as I did there. "This year I got the opportunity and I'm really excited. I'm ready for the girls and ready to give it my best. It's tough because it's a new school, so it's like starting from scratch, like we did with Nature Coast. When we got there it was like starting from scratch and that's when I learned a lot from Garcia." Sunlake athletic director Matt McDermott was impressed with Crespo and sang her praises when he announced her hiring 10 days ago. "She wasn't the only consideration we had, obviously," McDermott said. "We were looking for the best volleyball coach we could find for our program and she did a great job with both the varsity and JV teams last year. She's already familiar with everything here at Sunlake, her knowledge of the sport is unparalleled, I believe. "She's excited, already has summer conditioning and workouts scheduled. She did that as an assistant. So while she was the assistant without a head coach, she took it upon herself to set up a workout schedule for the girls this summer, getting them into a camp. She's done a lot of work behind the scenes as an assistant. I felt she was ready to take on the responsibility." Those interested in attending the camp, can call (407) 977-5046 or (407) 247-4926 or visit www.centralfloridavolleyball.com.
Reporter Eddie Daniels can be reached at (813) 948-4214 or [email protected]