Former Oviedo coach Rafael Valle replaced Rhea Simon as Atlantic's head girls volleyball coach.
Every time the Sharks rallied for a point, slammed a spike or blocked a shot, their head coach, Rafael Valle, sporting a button-up dress shirt and bow tie, was just as animated as his players. The same is true for when the Sharks’ girls volleyball team struggled in their season-opener against Pine Ridge on the night of Monday, Aug. 20, at Atlantic High School.
After 10 years as the coach of both Oviedo High School’s boys and girls volleyball teams — where the girls program went 25-4 in 2017 — Valle, who was hired to replace former coach Rhea Simon, also brings another aspect of coaching to the Sharks: discipline.
“We will bring plenty of emotion,” Valle said after Atlantic’s win over Pine Ridge in a five-set thriller. “But it’s about being disciplined in how we do things. I bring a disciplined approach to learning how to play volleyball.”
The Sharks’ girls volleyball program has been in decline over the past few years, culminating in a 2-13 season in 2017.
Valle said he has a clear vision of where he wants to see his program be within the next four years: “We want to be competitive every single play, every single game as these girls learn to play together and as they learn to win,” he said.
But the Sharks’ new head coach won’t have senior leadership to fall back on in his first year with the team. There’s only one senior on the roster — and she doesn’t start. The Sharks started five freshmen on Monday night against the Panthers and also featured three transfers.
Junior libero Olivia Nagus, who has been on the varsity team for three years, said the change in energy has been immediate.
“It’s not just the coaching. He’s a great coach, but it’s also the players that came in,” she said. “We have a lot of new faces who bring a lot of energy and young blood that want to win.”
Valle aims to make the Sharks an annually competitive team — a team that will hang on in the district tournament for “more than one game,” according to Nagus.
The challenge is doing so at a program lacking in tradition and history. The remedy is making those things for themselves.
“I think when you have a really well established program, like Creek for example, kids are coming up and learning their place in the program, their place in the history of the school," he said. "Here, we’re making history in this school, and so we need to learn to win."