Constant change no obstacle for HCC volleyball team

- Building a program is never easy when you're constantly rebuilding.

"You have to replace half of your roster every year," said Hillsborough Community College head volleyball coach Gary Larkin.

"It's almost like starting over."

A two-year program like HCC sees turnover every season. Their leaders are just sophomores.

And, the constant turnover sets the Hawks up for a challenge. It's a challenge Larkin said the team gladly accepts.

"Every level has its different challenges, and our greatest challenge is how quickly can you pull it all together," said Larkin. "We do feel good when we put together a product that's strong in the state or of national caliber."

Chemistry is one thing this group doesn't lack. In fact, it's the reason the Hawks say they've been so successful. It's also why they show up to practice on weekends.

"We feel like we need to take advantage of our time while everyone's resting," said Hawks outside hitter Dominique Mason. "We're trying to get after, we're trying to be better than everybody."

At a two-year school, it's tough to build a sense of culture and spirit about the program with so much turnover. So, to help new faces understand the history and past successes of the program, former HCC players write letters to current players.

"Having that little connection, it's our way of making a two-year program seem a little bit bigger," said Larkin.

"Just them reaching out saying, you know, I've been here before, it's going to get better, just talking about their experience," said Mason. "It's really inspirational to have you work hard here, because you only have it for two years. You meet these people, they're like your sisters and then they're gone."

This week, the Hawks will embark on a journey that will hopefully put another banner on that wall inside the HCC gymnasium.

"Starting from the bottom and then getting a national championship... That would mean everything," said Mason. "Having a ring, I feel like would be something I would remember forever. It would just make my life!"

Wednesday, HCC heads to Pensacola for the state tournament. Depending on their results there, they could be one of 16 teams participating in the national tournament later this month in Casper, Wyoming.

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