MIDDLEBURG - Amidst nearly 150 former players and coaches that arrived in Middleburg from as far away as California and as far back as 1985, Middleburg High volleyball coach Carrie Prewitt was …
MIDDLEBURG - Amidst nearly 150 former players and coaches that arrived in Middleburg from as far away as California and as far back as 1985, Middleburg High volleyball coach Carrie Prewitt was treated to two wins by her 2022 team and a festival of sorts celebrating her final season of 38 as the head of the Bronco volleyball nation.
“It’s very exciting today because we have a lot of the players, the coaches and their families now coming back,” said Prewitt, with 38 years of tenure in Bronco volleyball. “This is the last alumni get together. I’m so proud. I’ve already done the tears.”
With the Lady Broncos coming off a monster upset of sorts over Bartram Trail on Thursday, Prewitt had an 11 a.m. game set with Yulee on Saturday with alumni festival thereafter (and the group photo) then another game at 2 p.m. against Nease High to bookend the day’s action. Middleburg won both games decisively to leave the former players and fans a bit of excitement for their mentors final season.
One present coach, former player and long-time friend to Prewitt, 1998 graduate Meredith Forkum, has been Prewitt’ right hand the past few years as assistant coach with Prewitt naming Forkum as her heir apparent to the Bronco machine.
“I don’t think you ever replace a coach like Coach Prewitt,” said Forkum, who named teammates Crystal Mathis and Mary Beth Patrick as part of a senior year Elite Eight finish. “I played with Jenny Manz my sophomore year and we went to the Elite Eight (region finals) that year as well. I know we played in Satellite Beach, maybe it was them we lost to.”
Among the returning players, more recent years, were sibling entourages from the Bemis family; Josie, Jillian, Jordan and Jenna, as well as the Sypniewski family; Jenna, Julia and Megan as well as a Class of 2038 potential player from Megan Sypniewski, the oldest to the three outstanding players.
“I’m about to get married,” said Julia Sypniewski, a Final Four finisher twice for Prewitt in 2014 and 2015. “I remember her thing was hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard because that’s a philosophy for life.”
Sypniewski commented that Prewitt’s demeanor amidst a retirement without a state title (maybe 2022?) and a history of deep playoff runs never deterred her positive approach to her coaching and the game.
“Obviously, not winning the two times we got the Final Four is emotional, but coach Prewitt was also positive,” said Sypniewski, whose Bronco team with Erwin sisters Maddie and Jenna lost in two state semifinals in 2014 and 2015; to Jensen Beach and to Ocala Vanguard. “She has so many wins under her belt. For me, I was an emotional mess. She was always smiling and just stayed the course. That’s why year in and year out, the team was always a tough game.”
Manz, one of Prewitt’s most accomplished athletes, was a two time NCAA All American and twice the Southeastern Conference player of year while at the University of Florida (1998, 1999).
Forkum, who will add to the sibling chain for Middleburg has three daughters; Brooke on the 2022 team and two younger daughters coming up from junior high and elementary school, noted that Prewitt’s main takeaway from her senior season and her career at Middleburg that would be continued with her is the toughness of the Bronco teams.
“Coach Prewitt taught us mental toughness and how to fight in everything,” said Forkum, a Class 6A region finalist in 1995 (lost to Cypress Creek). “We ran the same grueling schedule as she has had in most of her years. Just relentless pursuit and instill that stick-to-it-ness on the court and in life. There’s nothing like that.””
From 1994, Jody Pelfry was a dual sport athlete; volleyball and basketball, that had an epiphany of sorts to become a Prewitt athlete.
“I always loved basketball the best and my senior year, I almost did not go out for the team,” said Pelfry, an Orlando mom of two boys; 16 and 13. “She said, go home and decide if you want to play. If you don’t want to play, don’t come back. I went home, recommitted to volleyball and earned a full ride scholarship to Rollins College in Orlando.”
Pelfry, a former boys volleyball coach for her two boys, remembered one mainstay of Prewitt’s coaching that has stuck with her over the years.
“I still remember the folders,” said Pelfry. “On the bus to the games, there was no talking and we all had a folder and were to write our thoughts; inspirational or something like that. My understanding is that she still has all those folders.”
Pelfry, who as a senior finished with a loss to Oviedo in the Class 6A sectionals, also played alongside Manz, a sophomore player in 1994.
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