Tatyana Lyons, a volleyball player out of Heritage Christian, has signed a Division II full-ride scholarship to the University of Tampa, proving that a players’ talent is more important than the school they play at.
Lyons played five varsity seasons with the Eagles, who dominated the Florida Christian Conference; Heritage won the conference volleyball title her first four varsity seasons before the Eagles were upset in the finals this season.
Lyons and the Eagles shrugged off the loss and went to the National Association of Christian Athletes national tournament in Tennessee right after the FCC season completed and won the NACA Division 3 title; the Eagles won two titles and were runners-up two other times at the national Christian school tournament.
Lyons, who also had interest from Southeastern University in Lakeland, will attend a new school for the first time since she came to Heritage in Kindergarten.
“There were also a couple of Division III schools, but when I visited Tampa and saw the school and met the team I knew 100 percent it was where I wanted to be,” said the 5-10 middle blocker who plans to study physical therapy and eventually get a doctorate.
Coach Jim Estrella said Lyons, who also played three seasons of basketball for the Eagles before choosing to focus on volleyball, joined the program just in time for its unprecedented run of success.
“She was the only junior to really play a lot last year,” he said. “Tatyana could have played anywhere but she stayed here. We’re going to miss her. She’s a testament to that if you can play and have the will to work, the schools will find you.”
Estrella said Lyons’ best asset is her leadership.
“She knows how to win, and has a great family as a support system. She plays a really good middle, and has a willingness to pick everybody else up.”
Lyons said that blocking is the strongest part of her game, one that she enjoys.
“You make a block, it’s a game changer,” she said. “I’m working on my hitting and getting used to the speed of the game and tempo that Tampa runs.”
The Spartans, who play in the Sunshine State Conference along with local schools like Rollins (Winter Park) and Florida Southern (Lakeland), are coached by Chris Catanach, who has led the team this year’s NCAA Division II Elite Eight; the No. 1 seed Spartans begin play on Thursday in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Lyons thanked Estrella for his help making the signing possible.
“I really appreciate Coach for putting in a lot of time and belief in making me better.”