By: Matt Rothman
Last March, members of the Coral Glades Volleyball Team suffered the loss of one of their players, devastating the team.
During spring break, Kendell Williams, 17, of Coral Springs, was a passenger involved in a multi-car accident when Kendell, along with another passenger, was ejected from the car.
Placed in a medically induced coma after sustaining a fractured skull, Kendell passed away five days later.
It was her first year on the varsity team, but she had played with her teammates throughout her life.
This year, the Coral Glades Jaguars dedicated their season to her, and so far, it’s been their most successful in school history by winning 14-2 — even defeating archrival J.P. Taravella in the opening round of playoffs.
According to her coach Beth Sloan, Kendall always brightened the mood in the room when she walked in and was one of the most well-liked players on the team.
“Coming to practice to begin the season was not easy, but when they [the team] recognized who they are doing for it, the players all bought in,” she said, adding, “They were like we’re doing this for Kendell no matter what and our goal is to have a winning record and we did that and much more.”
Coral Glades has not had a winning record since 2012, and this year, they won more games than each of the past four years combined. They also had the best winning percentage of any team in Coral Springs before they lost to Cypress Bay 3-0 in the district semifinals.
Offensively, the team was led by Danielle Strong, who had 70 kills in 50 sets, hitting over 40 percent. She, along with Marjory Stoneman Douglas standout Samantha Blahut, was nominated for the Florida Athletic Coaches Assoc. (FACA) All-Stars Team from Class 7A.
While the honor is special, Strong is more satisfied with what her team did in recognition of their friend who she credits with, giving them strength every game to play hard because she would do the same.
“This was hands down the best season we have had, and Glades has had,” said Strong. “I’m so happy we got to finish our senior year with these girls and with a bang.”
Coral Glades began their season winning their first 21 sets in their seven matches to move to 7-0 strong beating teams such as Coral Springs, Deerfield Beach, and Hallandale. Following their loss to Northeast, they went on to win their next seven games all in three sets before their first of two matchups against J.P. Taravella.
The Jaguars won in five sets on Oct. 3 and then faced them 11 days later in the district quarterfinals, and the won in four sets.
Freshman Gia Pulcher was second on the team with 54 kills and served exceptionally well, leading the team in aces. On the defensive side of the ball, she led the team in blocks and was tied with Angie Kasslater in digs. The two of them combined for over 50 percent of the teams digs at 23 apiece.
Senior captain Mia Copeland finished her tremendous high school career with a strong season with 15 assists and was honored along with Strong, Kasslater, Victoria Rocha, as well as Williams on senior night.
Kendell William’s number was retired before the match, as the Jaguars defeated South Broward three sets to none on an exceptional evening to close out the regular season at home.
Returning to the team next year, Coral Glades will have four seniors in Alejandra Charles, Abril Guevara, Katie Sinks, Rachael Sloan, and Tatianna Wade, are looking forward to continuing the great program by Coach Sloane and her assistant coach Carolina LePorte.
“From this year, we weren’t just a team, we were a family,” said Copeland. “Every day, I looked forward to being surrounded by such amazing girls that offered so much love and acceptance.”