OCALA-- The College of Central Florida volleyball program has made an impact on the national scene since it began playing in 2011.
The Patriots have either won or shared the Mid-Florida Conference championship in each of the past four seasons and qualified for the NJCAA National Tournament on three occasions.
This time around, CF brings back just one player from a squad that missed out on nationals by one game, but a strong recruiting class offers another chance to reload.
"We're very young, but I feel that we have a group of players who will accept the challenge of keeping the CF tradition going," said Patriots head coach Flavia Siqueira, who kicks off the regular season tonight at Pasco-Hernando State College at 6 p.m.
This is the youngest roster in terms of experience at the collegiate level for the Patriots since their first season.
CF has 13 freshman and one sophomore on its roster, but in return, it has a very versatile group of players.
"Everyone brings their own set of unique skills," Siqueira said. "They aren't similar and that is really good because it gives us a lot of options.
"It is exciting to have the chance to work with such a talented group of players."
In the early going, the key for the Patriots has been getting on the same page.
CF's roster has a huge international flavor, as seven players are from Brazil, combined with one each from Puerto Rico and Latvia.
"It's a challenge for everyone," Siqueira said. "We have players who come from different cultures and different backgrounds, but I really feel that we will have a lot of progress as the season goes on."
The lone returning player for CF is Yaralismar Rodriguez, a standout libero down the stretch.
The Patriots lost the likes of All-American Julymar Otero (Towson), Marina Adami (Florida Gulf Coast), Shanotta Bawek (Lynn) and Amanda Saunders (Embry-Riddle) off last year's squad.
Otero set the single-season kill mark for CF and dominated in conference games, while Adami is the school's all-time assist leader.
The new Patriots will get tested early and often.
Two years ago, CF played 15 teams who were nationally-ranked, but this year the schedule is even tougher. The Patriots will face between 18-20 teams who will have the opportunity to be nationally ranked.
"Our goal is to be ready for the postseason," Siqueira said. "Hands down, Region VIII is one of the toughest in the nation and this year will be no different.
"It's good to also see teams from other states. Volleyball is played different in the Midwest than in our region, so it is always good to see as many styles as you can."
CF opens its regular season tonight against Pasco-Hernando State College at 6 p.m.
The regular season home opener for the Patriots is September 29 against conference rival Florida State College at Jacksonville. CLICK HERE for complete schedule.