WINDERMERE When Kaylee Bolton arrived on campus at Windermere Prep to interview for the head coaching job for the school’s inaugural girls beach volleyball team, she got a chance to tour the facility the school had built in anticipation of the new program.
You might say she was impressed.
“My jaw dropped,” said Bolton, who eventually was offered — and accepted — the job.
Tucked between the school’s football field and its row of tennis courts is its sand court, complete with a small stadium-seating section and picnic tables.
More than anything, it is a sign Windermere Prep is all-in on the potential of girls beach volleyball, a first-year sport being offered by the Sunshine State Athletic Conference this spring — all of which is music to Bolton’s ears.
“I would have loved to have had the opportunity to play volleyball for my high school,” Bolton said.
The Lakers have fielded an eight-person roster for the inaugural season — four teams of two athletes — and will compete in the startup league’s Central Division. Division rivals this spring will include Montverde Academy, International Community School, The Master’s Academy and St. John Lutheran.
Tryouts, the preseason and a jamboree all took place in February, and the inaugural regular season begins this month and continues through April. The season will end with the 2017 Girls Beach Volleyball Championship Tournament at the Hickory Point in Tavares.
Matches are largely expected to take places on Mondays and involve three schools for tri-meets. The format the SSAC is using is loosely based on that of the collegiate level, where the sport also is growing.
For Bolton, who was referred to the Lakers’ opening through friends in the beach volleyball community, coaching in the league — the first in Florida to offer varsity sand volleyball — is a chance to grow the game she is passionate about. Bolton, 24, has played competitively for clubs in and around the Cocoa area, where she grew up, for many years.
The team for Windermere Prep includes Angeline Bergner, Arianna Bergner, Julia Bernardes, Audrey Hewitt, Tori Lahnston, Sabrina Pinto, Delaney Sauer and Izzy Teixeira. Several of the girls play for the Lakers indoor team, with Bolton noting having to play with just one partner will force those athletes to become better all-around volleyball players from a technical standpoint.
Only the Bergner sisters come to the program with previous experience playing competitive sand volleyball, thanks largely in part to the background of their father, Mark Bergner, in the sport.
Even the athletes are excited to be a part of something new.
“It has a lot of room to grow,” Arianna Bergner said.