Eckerd Tritons setting themselves up for success

Freshman Ellissa Johnson already meshing with a new mix of players

Eckerd College Tritons Beach Volleyball team hold a Culture meeting on the court before practice.
Team camaraderie takes priority for the Eckerd College Beach Volleyball team. The young Tritons are going through a rebuilding process. (Photo by: Brandon Brown/Toronto Observer) 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – For the Eckerd College Tritons beach volleyball team, an influx of freshmen including Ellissa Johnson have generated a culture shift. 

With only one Junior on the squad, match outcomes have taken a backseat to player development.

Johnson, an out-of-state recruit from Rock Hill, South Carolina, has fit right in with the team as she begins her college athletics career.

“I honestly feel like I’ve been here for years instead of just one year,” said the Anthropology major after a recent practice. “Everyone’s been super open and welcoming.”

Assistant Coach Jade Hayes reiterated how the new environment has allowed Johnson to bloom within the program.

Eckerd College Tritons Freshman Ellissa Johnson on the court
Johnson has focused on being consistent throughout her first season at Eckerd. (Photo by: Brandon Brown/Toronto Observer)

“She’s thriving and I’m excited to see her growth,” the second-year assistant said. “She’s got a high beach volleyball IQ and she can go far.”

Even though the Tritons started the season winless through six matches, Hayes insisted that the final results are not as important for the coaching staff.

Speaking on her philosophy for this iteration of the team, Hayes clarified.

“I obviously care if you get better at volleyball, but I want to see you leave a better person,” 

She added that Johnson and the team as a whole have accepted the idea that it’s about the journey and not the destination. 

Johnson started the season paired with fellow out-of-state freshman Brooke Hand, but has recently played with other teammates Bekah Overley and Melanie Silva.

“We’re still in the beginning process of our relationship plane,” Johnson said of her partnership with Hand. “I think it’s going smoothly.”

Spending time in her life in Japan, an unlikely relationship-building element between Johnson and some of her teammates is a Japanese class that has them speaking to each other in the language.

“I’m trying to become more fluent,” she said, adding that improving her Japanese skills is a personal and academic goal for her while studying at Eckerd.

As the first-year college athlete continues her season with the Tritons, her love for the sport has her hoping she can extend her career beyond Eckerd.

“I definitely want to continue to play after college, maybe in graduate school.”

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Posted: Mar 8 2024 6:51 pm
Filed under: College NCAA Sports