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Tribal players, coaches, community help Moore Haven volleyball soar

The 2021 Moore Haven High School varsity volleyball team includes the Seminole Tribe’s Summer Gopher (1), Ayana Fonseca (3), Preslynn Baker (back row, far left) and Miley Jimmie (back row, third from left). The team is coached by Baker’s mother Mona Baker (far right). Other players on the squad include Adore Thomas (kneeling), Jaiden Cox (16), Elissa Herrera (8), Toni Patrick (back row, second from left), Akeelah Ling (back row, third from right) and Mackenzie Cochran (back row, second from right). (Photo Kevin Johnson)

MOORE HAVEN — The Seminole community has had a lot to do with the early season success of the Moore Haven High School volleyball team, both on and off the court.

Using a new net that was donated by the Seminole Tribal Council and wearing home jerseys donated by Seminole Sign Co. owner and Moore Haven alum Jason Thomas, the Terriers swept Clewiston in three games Sept. 13 at Moore Haven High School.

The victory upped the Terriers’ record to a perfect 3-0 under first-year head coach Mona Baker of the Brighton Reservation. They won two of their next three matches and neared the end of September with a sizzling 5-1 mark.
Baker said the donation of the net couldn’t have come at a better time.

“The nets we had here were horrible. They were probably 10 years old,” Baker said.

Preslynn Baker, left, and Mackenzie Cochran are in good position for a service return in Moore Haven’s varsity win against Clewiston on Sept. 13, 2021, at Moore Haven High School. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

Her daughter Jaryaca, who is the junior varsity head coach, echoed those sentiments.

“Thank God. The other one was falling apart. It was a hazard to play with honestly,” she said.

Mona Baker said other companies in the area – such as Glades Electric – have also contributed to the program.

“I’m really proud of the community here and the tribal community,” she said.

Every little bit helps as Baker tries to build up the program. The banners draped on the walls of the gym highlight the school’s past championships won in sports such as football, softball and track. There are no banners for volleyball; Baker hopes to change that by forming a program that will vie for titles.

Moore Haven High School’s Ayana Fonseca (3) and Miley Jimmie (17) team up on defense at the net in a varsity match against Clewiston on Sept. 13, 2021. The team’s new net was donated by the Tribal Council. Moore Haven won, 3-0. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

So far, so good, although the team’s best days might be in the years to come. This year’s squad is very young, comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores with just two seniors (Jaiden Cox and Tori Patrick) and no juniors.

The four tribal members on varsity are all young. Summer Gopher is a sophomore; Ayana Fonseca and Baker’s daughter Preslynn are freshmen and Miley Jimmie is an eighth-grader. No doubt they’ll play huge roles in the future, but they’re already providing significant contributions.

Jimmie and Preslynn Baker are the team’s hardest hitters, and Baker teams up with Fonseca as the main setters. Gopher did not play against Clewiston, but she is also a key player.

“Those four tribal members are going to help us build,” Mona Baker said.

Moore Haven’s Tehya Nunez delivers a serve in the junior varsity match versus Clewiston on Sept. 13, 2021. Moore Haven won, 2-0. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

The setting department – with Fonseca and Preslynn Baker – should be strong for years to come.

“They work really well together and they communicate well together,” Mona Baker said.

Jimmie, who only recently began playing volleyball, had an outstanding night serving against Clewiston. She delivered the most powerful serves and racked up several aces.

As a team, serving is an area that Baker has seen tremendous growth in since day one. She points to the fact that nobody is serving underhanded anymore as a sign of the team’s growth that extends throughout the program. In fact, only the middle school “B” team is allowed to serve underhand.

The varsity squad has also quickly adapted to Baker’s coaching.

“All the girls have really stepped up and adjusted to learning a new rotation,” Baker said.

Baker hopes to be at the helm of the program until at least the younger middle school players are seniors. Right now those players are being guided by the tribe’s Dallas Nunez, who coaches the “B” team, and his daughter Brianna, who coaches the “A” team. Both middle school teams feature Seminole players.

The varsity squad originally had 12 games on its regular season schedule, however, quarantine issues have disrupted the schedules for practices and matches. Still, the 5-1 start is the kind of progress Baker hopes to see the rest of the season and beyond.

“I’m so proud of them,” she said.

Moore Haven junior varsity head coach Jaryaca Baker and her team had plenty of reasons to smile as they defeated Clewiston on Sept. 13, 2021. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
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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 kevinjohnson@semtribe.com.
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