Just as with Rome, successful volleyball programs aren’t built in a day.
For a second-year program, Mentorship Academy located in downtown Baton Rouge, the road to winning is rugged.
In 2014, the Sharks were relegated to playing in only junior varsity matches. Now Mentorship is district eligible, but it has yet to win a game.
Monday night, the Sharks opened Division V, District 4 play with a loss, dropping to a 0-4 overall. But for Mentorship coach Robyn Bentley, who played at Hosanna Christian Academy, the loss was just another brick laid onto the program’s foundation.
“We had our first district match (Monday) against Runnels so that was an experience,” Bentley said. “It’s been a building year, but the girls are working hard. They’re trying to make it happen.”
Indeed, the team has been fighting an uphill battle. The 14-player roster includes two seniors, seven juniors, one sophomore and four freshmen. The team recently made arrangements for its first indoor practice facility two weeks ago — the McKinley Middle gymnasium, which is about two miles from the Sharks’ downtown campus.
Before the arrangement, the team practiced on their campus and at different facilities around the city.
“The biggest positive is us being able to actually have a gym,” Bentley said. “We have a home for our games. That’s a positive. We are able to just watch the program grow. We have supportive parents and supportive staff. Our principal comes to our games. That’s a big thing.”
Senior middle blocker Marnesi Williams never played volleyball until joining the team last season but said her coach has been instrumental in building the team’s moral despite the lack of success.
“She doesn’t let us get down on ourselves,” Williams said. “Even if we lose a game, she tells us to still pick our heads up because we have other games to come.”
Some of those future games include Christian Life on Oct. 14 and two meetings with District V power Southern Lab on Oct. 16 and 28.
Bentley said she isn’t aware of any talks of building an onsite gym, but noted she’ll take what she gets. She’s glad to see the program moving in the right direction.
“I think that the program is going to grow and get better,” Bentley said. “We have more stability now, so I think that’s going to help. It brings the girl’s morale up to be a part of something and here at Mentorship Academy.
“I think for the girls, volleyball is something that really helps to motivate them to keep up with their academics.”