Maitland Middle School volleyball teams just can’t lose!
Winning every single game in a season may seem like an almost impossible feat, but this year both the girls’ and boys’ volleyball teams at Maitland Middle pulled it off and made school history!
The undefeated seasons earned both teams Orange County Middle School Volleyball Championships for 2018-2019. The teams’ record of success is not only attributed to their athletic skill, but also to their character, sense of teamwork, and the support they received along the way.
Boys’ head volleyball coach and Maitland Middle athletic director Kevin Neff says that his mix of new and experienced players were all very good at many aspects of the game, but what made them stand out most this year was their incredible serving ability.
“All six servers in the rotation had a different and unique serve that resulted in a lot of aces,” says Kevin. “The team never gave up and always believed they were going to be successful even when things didn’t go their way in a game.”
The boys’ mettle was tested in the championship game against Lake Nona Middle School.
“The team was losing by five points in both sets to a very strong Lake Nona team,” says Kevin, “but they managed to fight back each time and win both sets.”
Watching the team play at an extremely high level during games while, at the same time, displaying respect and humility to their opponents is something Kevin says meant a lot to him this season.
“I enjoyed watching them shake hands with their opponents with class and sportsmanship after each game,” says Kevin, “and then I loved seeing them go into the weight room for our post-game talk and letting out all their excitement and joy to celebrate each win.”
Kevin’s goal each season is to build a positive team environment that helps his athletes develop as leaders in their community. Many of his former middle-school players continue playing volleyball in high school and at the college level. One of his former players, now the head coach of Winter Park High School’s varsity volleyball team, returns to speak to the Maitland Middle School players each year.
Kim Musante, the girls’ head coach, has coached volleyball at Maitland Middle for the last seven years. This is her first middle-school championship, which she says the girls earned because of their qualities of teamwork and family.
“This team, this school, and these athletes are a family – we’ve been working together, each year, to create a positive team culture and to ultimately win a championship,” says Kim. “We started this season by writing our goal on our whiteboard, which was to ‘Beat Bridgewater and Finish Undefeated!’”
Kim says her team had a tough mental game and was the most positive squad she has ever had the privilege to coach.
“Every single player was supportive of each of their teammates,” says Kim. “When the championship game started to get tough, and Bridgewater Middle School started to pull ahead, these girls pulled together, worked as a team, and decided that this was their year.”
In addition to this joyful and meaningful season, Kim adds that the school’s team culture makes each season extremely special.
“We are supported by our alumni at every game,” she says. “High-school players are at our gym before and during our games, volunteering and building our culture.”
Kim explains the Maitland Middle boys’ team is also part of their family.
“We sometimes practice at the same time,” she says. “We scrimmage each other every week and have a sibling rivalry game. We grow and push each other to do better, try harder, and train smarter. All of this came together this year. We had an amazing season that resulted in both teams earning championships.”
Looking ahead, Kim says she hopes that middle-school volleyball will be something the girls will always cherish. She hopes they’ve learned a few valuable life lessons, and when the time comes, that they, too, will come back as high-school freshmen to support next year’s team and continue to grow Maitland Middle School’s team culture.
In January, to honor both undefeated teams, Mayor A. Dale McDonald of Maitland declared December 12, 2018, as Maitland Middle School Volleyball Day.
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