As fall semester sports neared their conclusion, Florida State College at Jacksonville opened its gym Nov. 6-8 for the brightest stars in state college volleyball. Eight teams from around Florida stormed into South Campus Thursday for the National Junior College Athletic Association Region 8 tournament. College of Central Florida, Daytona State College, Gulf Coast State College, Miami Dade College, Palm Beach State College, Polk State College, Santa Fe College, and State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, battled for state honors throughout the intense weekend.
The winning squad received a valuable prize–the chance to progress one more step toward the NJCAA’s national championships, scheduled for Nov. 20-22 in Casper, Wyoming.
But athletes pursued another goal: the dream of continuing their careers at the NCAA level. Dozens of Florida’s volleyball stars took advantage of the opportunity to dig, set and spike their way into the minds of college recruiters absorbing the action from the sidelines.
Among those taking notes was Ashley Hardee, Assistant Volleyball Coach of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “The association has got a lot of good talent in it, a lot of good players,” Hardee said. “There are people that we can use at a Division I, four-year institution.” Although state colleges in Florida do offer four-year degrees, students have only two years of athletic eligibility for competition. Thus, athletes interested in extending their athletic careers typically transfer to a university after receiving their associate degrees. Hardee said that a new transfer’s experience at the state college level often provides an edge on the competition after they switch to an NCAA-affiliated school. “It’s somebody that can come in and have some experience,” he said. “They come to us and are able to step in and play right away, as opposed to a freshman out of high school.”
Although FSCJ’s Blue Wave squad didn’t qualify for the eight-team tournament, the weekend still brought excitement to the South Campus for players, coaches and spectators around the court. The competition reminded even the most seasoned observers of the thrill of the sport. “The energy and the passion for the game is fun to watch,” Hardee said. Traditional power Miami Dade College captured the state title, defeating State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota in Saturday’s championship match.