By Barron Demons
The Pirates say farewell to outgoing coach Chris Laird and welcomes in Jennifer Belarmino.
Belarmino officially took over as head coach in April and is a graduate from Ball State University. Before her coaching career, Belarmino served as a fund raiser for organizations such as the American Heart Association and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Belarmino started her head coaching career at West Virginia University Tech (WVU Tech) before being named the new head coach for the Pirates. She coached the Golden Bears to the most wins in their school history in 2011. After her tenure at WVU Tech, she became the head coach for Lake-Sumter State college in Leesburg, Florida.
However, Belarmino is very familiar with the city of Pensacola.
“My husband is from Pensacola, and we actually lived here about 12 years ago,” Belarmino said. “When we came back, it was just like walking back into familiar faces and friends, so we’re very happy to be here.”
Along with Belarmino comes experience. She was an assistant at the University from South Alabama for two seasons. She also has been apart of a volleyball club in Niceville, Florida, as well. The Pirates have already played multiple expedition matchups this past spring including games against University of Southern Mississippi, which they split with the Golden Eagles, and games against Alcorn State resulting in a victory for the Pirates.
“We had a very promising Spring and Summer.
I like the process of team sports. I like seeing kids start at a certain point and then their finished products. They’re better players, better communicators, good teammates and good students. I like point A to point B, and I like seeing the process of getting there.
The experience is one aspect Belarmino brings, but she is also heavy on her players having academic success.
Katarina Nikolic is from Begrade, Serbia, who is studying to become an engineer. “That was part of recruiting her. I like kids that have good grades
and are good students,” Belarmino said.
“A consistent goal for everyone was they wanted to make the state tournament, and the other goal was to have to highest GPA.”
The team set goals when Belarmino arrived, and are working on achieving their goals this offseason.
“We are going to work very hard towards the goals that we’ve made, but the one that we really all agreed on and was consistent across the board was making it to the state tournament.”
Last season under former head coach Chris Laird, the Pirates went 12-11 overall, a home record of 8-3 and an away record of 2-5. The new-look team is motivated to achieve their goals and are ready to prove that the hard work in the offseason will show once the season gets underway.
“I think we have the players to do it. We’ve got great hitters that are returners, and I brought in some very good defensive players. Kids are hustling after the ball and no ball is dead until it hits the floor. We’ve just got kids that are excited to be here, they practice with enthusiasm and really get after it, so I think we’re going to be in really good shape this season.”