Central Florida's Benke Continues Success
October 4, 2012
During the recruiting process, Vanessa Benke made sure she showcased her skills.
"I was in Brazil and I was looking for a place to play in the United States," the sophomore outside hitter said. "So I put my video on YouTube and (CF coach Flavia Siqueira) called me and offered me and I liked what she said.
"When, I found out (CF was in Florida), I was like oh yes, because I really like the tropical weather. I don't like the cold and I was happy to have a chance to come here."
The Florida weather hasn't been the only thing that Benke has enjoyed, as she has put together a stellar career for the Patriots.
In two years, she has become the face of the CF program.
As a freshman, Benke earned NJCAA Second Team All-American honors, as well as the Mid-Florida Conference Player of the Year award and a selection to the FSCAA's All-State First Team. In earning these accolades, she has remained humble.
"I want to emphasize that my teammates and coaches are part of my honors," Benke said.
On her way to those honors, she totaled 538 digs and 533 kills as a freshman.
"She's a great player and also a great person," Siqueira said. "I never have to worry about her. She is everything you want (in a student-athlete)."
In CF's inaugural season, Benke stepped up and became a leader right away, as the Patriots finished 43-9 overall and ended up second in the state and seventh in the nation.
"Coach brought me in with a (purpose)," Benke said. "I have different characteristics than American players, so I think (coach) brought me into help them."
Benke's mental game is another attribute which helps her excel.
After she smacks a kill, Benke lets out a yell in celebration and serves as the emotional leader of the Patriots.
"I always try to stay focused and always try to push my teammates," she said.
Standing 5-foot-7, Benke isn't as tall as most outside hitters, but she has made up for this by using her skill.
"In Brazil, I had some trouble because players are taller than they are here and being a smaller outside, I had to be smarter (rather) than powerful," she said. "I need to see the block. I need to see where the hole is and where I can tip.
"I also have to how I should hit and if I need to block or if I have to hit done. I need to think more and not just use my power."
Benke's sophomore season has been an impressive one, as she has led the Patriots to the No. 1 ranking in the state and a No. 6 spot in the national poll.
Already in 2012, she's earned state player of the week honors and has helped CF all but officially clinch its second Mid-Florida Conference title in as many years.
With the state tournament on the horizon in early November, there's still work to be done for the Patriots.
"I think individually we have more skill (this year)," Benke said. "In the beginning, I think our team chemistry was better, but this team is progressing. We keep working hard and are getting better each game."
Perhaps the signature moment for this year's CF team to this point was its sweep of nemesis Miami Dade.
The Sharks won all three matches against the Patriots last year; with two of those going five sets, but this year CF got revenge in a major way.
"It was frustrating last year because we knew that we were playing our best, but we just couldn't beat them," Benke said. "We've worked hard and it was nice to beat them (this year)."