The Miami Dade College volleyball team is starting the season with a very clear goal—to win the national championship.
They won the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I national title in 2016 and 2017 and fell just short of capturing a third consecutive crown in 2018. The Lady Sharks lost in the championship game last year to the College of Southern Idaho.
Head Coach Origenes “Kiko” Benoit attributed the defeat to a lack of concentration and consistency in the decisive match.
“Unfortunately, we all decided to make mistakes on a very key day for the national championship.” Benoit said. “We have to keep working very hard and learn from our failures. In the end, we are humans and we make mistakes. The good thing about that is that we can get up and learn from them.”
This year, the pressure to win remains the same. Since 2016, the Lady Sharks have accumulated an impressive 87-7 record. That translates to a 92.55% winning percentage, which has allowed MDC to be the top-ranked team in the state.
Despite losing key performers like setter Tiziana Baumrukova, who averaged 10.82 assists per set (third in the NJCAA), and right side hitter Samaret Carabello, who had 550 digs, the Lady Sharks bring back several key sophomores. Outside hitter Scherine Dahoue had 252 kills last year, middle blocker Kimberlie Apolinario Correa boasted a .409 hitting percentage and 187 kills and outside hitter/right side hitter Yaniris Miller Green contributed 96 digs and 171 kills.
That group will be augmented by nine freshmen from four countries including Brazil, Dominican Republic, Sweden and the United States.
Dominican players Erika Asencio and Camila De La Rosa, who have played for their national team at the Federation International of Volleyball under 18 World Championships. Asencio, an outside hitter, played in Argentina in 2017 and De La Rosa, a setter, played in Mexico in 2019. Wilma Calmfors, an outside hitter, has played for the Swedish National Team in the under 17 and under 19 groupings as well as the country’s senior team.
“From what I’ve been able to see off the court, the key to this team is the union,” Benoit said. “It’s a team that gets along very well. The girls are always together and that is something that transmits [to] the court.”
The Lady Sharks are poised to improve on last year’s impressive run that included 25 straight wins to start the season and 32 victories in 34 matchups. They ranked sixth in the country in kills per set (13.25), fourth in hitting percentage (.283), third in assists per set (12.64), seventh in digs per set (18.98) and fifth in points per set (17).
To do so, the team will count on a feisty group of freshmen to step up.
“I like to be really loud, motivate my teammates and bring the team up when we are down,” said freshman defensive specialist Darlenis Medina. “I came to MDC to improve my volleyball skills and help the team win something big.”
The Lady Sharks next game is August 30 versus Polk State College at the Polk State Invitational in Winter Haven, Florida at 7 p.m.