On Nov. 3, the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) released the full list of the Florida High School All-Region Awards recipients. Coach Matt Willems and junior Alejandra Rodriguez, both of Divine Savior Academy, were honored as Florida???s Class 2A, Region 4 Coach and Player of the Year.
The AVCA has awarded exemplary players and coaches with such titles and honors for two years. Of the 74 volleyball teams in Class 2A, only four coaches and players received this recognition. Divine Savior was the only school in Class 2A this year where the Coach and Player of the Year were from the same school, making this achievement far more memorable.
Willems, who has coached high school volleyball for 10 years, did not expect to receive this title, especially in his first year as Divine Savior???s head volleyball coach.
???[I have never received anything] of this magnitude. I???ve got some other minor awards but nothing from???a national organization. I???ve been involved with other teams where the team has gotten some recognition and things like that, but???[nothing] of this magnitude,??? Willems said.
With his passion for volleyball, which began during his freshman year in college, he hopes that his love for the sport is evident through his coaching.
???I like sports a lot???so hopefully the girls can see that every day I???m excited to go to volleyball practice, I???m excited for the games and matches, and hopefully they???re able to???see that and develop some of that as well,??? said Willems.
As he leads the team to their semifinal regional game on Nov. 4, Willems emphasizes his intensity and dedication to his team???s success.
???For me, if I???m going to be involved in something, if I???m going to do it, I want to do it to the best of my ability and do it 100%. There???s no reason to do something 50%. It???s just being lazy,??? he said.
In regards to his new title, Willems attributes the credit to the team???s hard work and progress.
??????To me, it???s an honor [to receive this award]. It???s pretty cool, but, I mean, obviously the credit goes to what the girls have been doing and how the team has been doing this year,??? Willems said.
Led by junior co-captain Alejandra Rodriguez, the Divine Savior Sharks finished their regular season 16-3, with a perfect record of 10-0 in district play. Now in the postseason regional tournament, Rodriguez has definitely displayed her talent throughout the season, accumulating 366 kills, 232 digs, and 160 aces.
???I have literally played nonstop and???every year I play club, and I also play in school???I try to keep myself active, and during the off season, I workout???,??? said Rodriguez.
With her strong commitment and dedication to volleyball, the outside hitter has surely had the opportunity to be recognized for her outstanding performance on the court on more than one occasion.
???I had a high-performance tournament, which???the best teams go to???and I was named???an All-Star Player,??? she recalled.
Playing on the Divine Savior volleyball team for three years now, Rodriguez appreciates the leadership and insight given by her coaches. With Willems as the new coach, he is definitely bringing forth his years of experience, advice, and strategy.
???I think he has more knowledge about the game, and he doesn???t let us believe that we are good or better than anyone else.???
Such advice has helped the girls and Rodriguez stay humble. There is no doubt, though, that she is ecstatic about this new achievement.
She added, ???It???s???a really big honor for me???because when people tell you that you???re good, you don???t really believe it, but when you see that you get recognized???[with] something that big, then you???start to believe it.???
Coach Willems is leading Rodriguez and DSA???s Varsity Volleyball Team to the Regional Championship Game at 2pm this??Saturday, November 8th against??Boca Raton Christian at??Boca Raton Christian School (495 Crawford Blvd in Boca Raton). For more information about Divine Savior Academy???s Volleyball Program, visit DSA???s High School Athletics page.
Divine Savior Academy is a Christian academy dedicated to excellence. Located in Miami??proper, DSA is the only private Christian school in Doral and serves the community with early??childhood, elementary school, middle school and high school programs. Accredited by AISF,??SACS, AI, and NCPSA, Divine Savior Academy provides a college-prep curriculum that prepares??students academically, athletically, socially, artistically and spiritually in a safe and moral??environment.