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Sharp start for Ahfachkee volleyball

The 2018 Ahfachkee School girls volleyball team gathers for a team photo before the season opener Aug. 23 in Big Cypress. The players are, from left, front row: Aaliyah Billie, Jaylee Jimmie, and back row, Abby Tigertail, Janessa Jones, Mya Cypress, Lania Bert, Leilani Gopher and Thomlynn Billie. (Kevin Johnson photo)

BIG CYPRESS — If the opening match serves as an indication of the path the Ahfachkee School girls volleyball team will follow this season, then the Warriors should do just fine.
Plenty of optimism emerged from the team’s season debut Aug. 23 in Big Cypress, a hard-fought 3-0 loss to Donahue Academy of Ave Maria. Scores were 25-14, 25-16, 25-16.


Abby Tigertail controls the ball as teammates Thomlynn Billie, left, and Leilani Gopher help out during Ahfachkee’s season opener Aug. 23 at the Herman L. Osceola Gymnasium in Big Cypress. (Kevin Johnson photo)

Despite having just one practice under their belts and playing the opener without their head coach, Ahfachkee showed an abundance of determination as it played Donahue even for most of the afternoon at the Herman L. Osceola Gymnasium. Their resilience was evident throughout the match, including in the second set when they trailed 15-6, but then won 10 of the next 13 points to pull to within two.

“For being the first time, they did really good. There was some fight. They wanted to win. We played three sets, but I think they had fire,” said Ahfachkee assistant coach Randy Hernandez, who was among the subs for head coach Miliani Quinsaat (out with illness).

Ahfachkee captain Mya Cypress said the team looked like it was already in mid-season form compared to last year’s squad.

“This is like how we played last year when we did practice a lot,” said Cypress, a senior who is one of the more experienced players on a club that features three middle schoolers. “We also have a lot of middle schoolers and this is their first time playing volleyball so we’re trying to teach them as we go.”

Cypress was in the starting lineup along with her 2019 classmates Thomlynn Billie and Janessa Jones, juniors Abby Tigertail and Leilani Gopher and sixth-grader Aaliyah Billie. The subs were seventh-graders Jaylee Jimmie and Lania Bert.

Cypress served up the team’s first ace of the season early in the first set. She also strung together a handful of solid service points along with Bert and Jones during the rally in the second set.
In the first set, Thomlynn Billie had an ace that brought Ahfachkee to within 15-14, but Donahue won the next 10 points to win the set.

Tigertail was a defensive standout, which included an outstanding get in the third set. Everyone in the building thought the point was over and the ball would hit the floor, but she somehow kept it alive. Those type of extra effort plays kept Ahfachkee within striking distance in all three sets.

A kill by Cypress and an ace from Thomlynn Billie helped knot the third set at 15-15 before Donahue pulled away.

Hernandez said working on basic skills, such as serving and passing, will be emphasized when the team gets into a regular practice rhythm, although the team will see plenty of game action, too, with four matches in the first eight days of the season.

“We’ll do better next time,” he said.

The Ahfachkee volleyball team receives well-deserved applause from their fans following their first game of the season. (Kevin Johnson photo)
Ahfachkee’s Janessa Jones battles Donahue Academy at the net. (Kevin Johnson photo)
Ahfachkee is on the defense as Mya Cypress, Janessa Jones (23), Aaliyah Billie (18) and Leilani Gopher (16) are in position for a service return. (Kevin Johnson photo)
Mya Cypress winds up for a hit in Ahfachkee’s game against Donahue. (Kevin Johnson photo)
Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at

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