There are no state volleyball championship banners hanging inside Tampa Catholic's gym to inspire this season's team. Instead, the Crusaders new head coach recruited a guest to give his athletes a culture shock. The guest was his daughter, Misty May-Treanor.
"I think they thought, 'is he pulling my leg?" new Tampa Catholic head coach Butch May said.
"All of us were so nervous," senior setter Suzanne Peterson noted. "Then she came out and was just cool and connected with us."
The two-time beach volleyball Olympic gold medalist spent the past week reshaping how this group of young women viewed themselves amongst the bay area's elite teams.
"I wanted to get them to believe that they could do it," May-Treanor said after her week-long instruction. "I had people telling me that 'oh Berkeley is so good.' Okay great, they should win. But you're in here working just as hard. You should walk into that gym and say, we can do this. You have to make the other team earn their points. When they leave the court after a game, I want the opposing teams' parents to look at TC differently."
Coming off a 10-9 season last year, 27 years have passed since Tampa Catholic last played in a state championship game.
2002 marked the last time the volleyball team won a district title.
While current and former players at Berkeley Prep, Plant, Bayshore Christian, and Tampa Prep can dangle multiple medals from their necks, Peterson simply dreams of the day when the Tampa Catholic team is not considered a pushover.
"We look at ourselves and we just want to have fun," she said. "Coach and Misty have helped us have fun but tell us to use the fundamentals and put them into play. We have a solid team and we're going to have a good year."
May says that is exactly why his daughter spent her free week with these impressionable teenagers.
"Nothing's better than David slaying Goliath," he said.
Tampa Catholic opens up its 2009 season this week and a date with perennial powerhouse Berkeley lurks Thursday. May says his team has no reason to be intimidated by any team.
"We're on the cusp of getting things turned around here."
This team is not a collection of Division-I recruiting heavyweights, select club players, jump servers, or six footers. But as the players took their turns after practice taking candid photos with arguably the top women's volleyball player in the world, they left the gym a little more fearless.
Peterson summed up her team's experience. "I was trying to explain to people at school that imagine whatever sport you play and having the best person that ever played that sport come and teaches you and try and help your team out. It was pretty awesome," she said.
This team, their coach, and their newest mentor are determined to change the culture at Tampa Catholic. Maybe the state championship banner is not so out of reach after all.