The Santa Fe High School girls’ volleyball team not only won its first state championship last year, but the team also won the first state championship for a girls’ sport in school history.
Head Coach Eric Marshall, who has coached the Santa Fe Raiders since 2018, is preparing his team to chase that victory again this year.
All eyes are on senior Jalyn Stout, 18, who currently leads the team with 320 assists, 209 digs and 477 kills.
The Raiders were named the Florida High School Athletic Association District 5 champions last year, but there is more to come.
“We went from this school that nobody was looking at to this school that everybody was like ‘uh-oh, Santa Fe,’” Stout said.
Marshall said that the way to win volleyball games when you are playing other high-level teams is to limit the errors. You won’t ever eliminate all of the errors, he said, as errors are extremely common in volleyball. But when you can limit errors from the service line and serve receive, it gives your team a chance to score a point every time.
“As a coach, believe me, I would love for it to look perfect every time, but it’s not going to,” he said.
This high school volleyball team, Marshall said, has taken that motivation and knowledge that they will not look perfect all the time and ran with it.
The team can be seen on the sidelines in the huddle dancing around and having fun. Marshall would describe the team as “goofy.”
Marshall said that he wants the team to be able to let loose and have fun, but the difference is that they know when it is time to go.
“When it is time to move in the right direction, they move in the right direction,” he said.
It will take more consistency for the team to achieve back-to-back state championships. As the playoffs continue, Santa Fe’s schedule will get more and more difficult. Marshall said even the few errors they are making won’t get it done against some of these teams.
On Tuesday evening, the Raiders defeated their first regional playoff team, Space Coast High School out of Cocoa. The Raiders won in three sets.
Marshall has seen Stout step up this year both physically and vocally for her team. Stout has had to fill in for Rylie Tam, who now plays volleyball for Butler University as an outside hitter. Marshall explained that Tam was a leader for the program since her freshman year at Santa Fe and in the state championship game that they lost.
Tam led the team in kills, attack percentages and in blocks, Marshall said.
“When I have consistent leaders like Jalyn, it just makes my job easier,” said Marshall.
Stout has jumped into the job and has done a very good job of being consistent on what she is talking about, explained Marshall. She has led vocally, which is something she is not used to. If you follow a leader, you want consistency. She doesn’t just show that on the court, but off the court as well, Marshall said.
“Obviously I want to win again, but not just for me, for my team,” she said. “We want to keep the legacy going. I think it would be cool to, you know, two-peat.”
Stout explained how the team was an underdog program a few years ago, but this year looks a little different.
“It is a little of pressure to now be looked at,” Stout said, “but it is really cool for us to have this opportunity.”
Stout has to keep the team together and calm but ready for action since losing three big voices on the team last year.
“We have to take it one game at a time,” she said. “We can’t overlook a certain team or underlook a certain team.”
At this point in the season, the stakes are high. One loss would completely end the Raiders’ season. Stout said there is never a guarantee that they will play another game. They have to focus and hopefully win a state championship again.
“The difference now is that we are the hunted, not the hunter,” Marshall said. “We have a target on your back now, but that’s not an excuse. We like that.”