Melanie Silva credits her junior coach for success

Beach volleyball freshman transitioning well in her first season

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Melanie Silva works on her sets before practice at Eckerd College. The freshman credits her junior coach for making the NCAA. (Photo by: Justin Arenburg/ Toronto Observer) 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Melanie Silva’s junior coach saw something in her she didn’t even see in herself. 

Eugemir Guedes has been by her side since Day One, to the point where she views him as family.

“He was like family to me; he was kind of like the person that was … he was like my biggest motivator, and he had the most faith in me,” said Silva, a freshman on Division 2 Eckerd College’s beach volleyball team. “He’s the one that actually started my volleyball career and if it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be here.

“He was just more than a coach to me; he was very influential. He understood me and all the girls I was training with at the time very well. He gave us what we needed to succeed.”

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Melanie Silva poses beside Eckerd College Tritions newly renovated courts during Thursday’s practice. (Photo by: Justin Arenburg/Toronto Observer)

Silva started playing volleyball at 13 after her aunt, Andrea Guarin, told her how she regretted not playing all the way up through college. 

“It was mainly the influence of my aunt. I originally played gymnastics and I didn’t really like it anymore,” Silva said. “And my aunt was an athlete herself and she did volleyball. And she always talked about the opportunity that she missed with not playing volleyball in college. So she kind of just pursued me to getting into volleyball. She was like my main motivation.”

After Eckerd started 0-6 on the year without winning even one set, the hardest part is remembering it’s not about yourself, Silva said.

“In juniors (club teams of younger highly skilled players), the focus is mainly on you and it’s less of a team effort,” she said. “I feel like in college it’s more of having to win for your team; it’s not just about yourself anymore. It’s a bigger thing and it’s also representing your college and …  people that want to come here – like you want to represent it well.

“Also, the volleyball obviously is more competitive and a higher level here. And it’s also like our first time playing with people we’ve never met or played with before.”

She’s one of seven new faces on the squad this season but doesn’t feel she’s holding the team back. 

“I feel the fact that there are more freshmen is kind of easier since we’re all going through the same process, like we’re all new to this,” Silva said. “Some girls on the team have very little experience with beach (volleyball), so they’re just trying to get into it.”

Having a young team playing against fifth-year seniors and graduate students isn’t something of concern for assistant coach Jade Hayes.

“I think our median age is like 18.6 (years) when other teams have 23-year-old women,” Hayes said. “That’s the biggest thing, but (Eckerd’s players) have been gritty. They have been fearless when they go out with resilience and compete when we’ve been playing Division 1 teams.”

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Posted: Mar 7 2024 8:20 pm
Filed under: NCAA Sports