Senior Lily Puritis has played for three different head volleyball coaches in her four seasons at Flagler Palm Coast. For the first time in her high school career, she has the same coach for a second straight season.
It has brought continuity. And further helping in familiarity is the fact that the coach is her mom. Nicole Puritis did not take the job last year simply because her daughter is on the team. She says she's in it for the long haul.
Three games into the 2023-24 season, the Bulldogs’ improvement is noticeable.
“Our mentality is so much different. We’re trying to improve every little bit we can,” said Lily Puritis, who is the Bulldogs’ co-captain along with Natalya Pilasky.
For the first time since the 2019-20 season, FPC has opened with two straight wins. The Bulldogs defeated Deltona 3-1 in their season opener on Aug. 23 and then followed the next day with an intense five-set battle with Mainland, winning the final set 16-14.
Their winning streak ended on Aug. 25 in their third match in three days and their first on the road, a 3-0 loss at Orange Park. They're scheduled to open the season with five matches in seven days.
Last year we had a lot of new players, and I was a first-year head coach. I encourage them to not be afraid to make mistakes, because that’s the only way you learn and get better.” — NICOLE PURITIS, Flagler Palm Coast volleyball coach
“We’ve grown so much,” Nicole Puritis said. “Last year we had a lot of new players, and I was a first-year head coach. I encourage them to not be afraid to make mistakes, because that’s the only way you learn and get better.”
The Bulldogs have new additions again this year with two out-of-state transfers, including senior libero Kenna Kirshy.
FPC started out strong in both of their victories.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 14-1 lead in their first set against Deltona and then held on to win the set 25-8. After losing the second set 25-21, they won the next two sets, 25-21 and 25-11, to close out the match.
Outside hitters Puritis and sophomore Marina Carlisi led the team in kills with 14 and 13, respectively. Carlisi also led the team at the serving line, serving 29 times. Puritis had five aces — tying with sophomore setter Faith Dailey for the team lead — and 16 passes.
“Our energy was very positive,” Lily Puritis said after the match. “Everyone’s more involved.”
FPC won the first two sets against Mainland by identical 25-18 scores before the Bucs came back to tie the match, winning 25-20, 25-20. The Bulldogs needed to go an extra point before winning the final set.
Puritis had 19 kills against Mainland. Carlisi had 13 kills and 10 aces. The Bulldogs had a total of 25 aces against the Bucs.
“We’ve been working really hard on our serves,” Nicole Puritis said. “I think that’s the most important skill in volleyball.”
But perhaps the most important factor in the Bulldogs’ improvement has been their team chemistry. Nicole Puritis said each varsity player is a “big sis” to a player on the JV squad, which had helped strengthen the players’ bond with each other.
“Each year we continue to grow,” Lily Puritis said. “I’m real excited. Even after I graduate, I want to see how this program grows.”