By Dawn Klemish, SunCoast Sports
NORTH PORT — Three months ago, North Port High School volleyball coach Becky Halbert approached former player Adrienne Moreno with a serious proposition. Halbert, a 11-year veteran of the sidelines, was considering retirement and wondered if Moreno would be interested in filling her role.
It didn’t take the 23-year-old long before she accepted wholeheartedly, and on Wednesday morning, the deal was official: Moreno is the new Bobcats varsity volleyball coach.
“I’m really excited,” said Moreno, a recent graduate of Florida International University. “I was graduating and coming back home, and I’m definitely excited to be passed the torch.”
Moreno played two years for Port Charlotte before transferring to North Port to finish her varsity career, and it was there she really shined. Moreno was the team MVP both years, and set the school single-season kills record (261) as a junior, a mark that still stands.
The connection with Halbert will be invaluable moving forward, Moreno said, as the long-time coach assured her she would be available for anything Moreno might encounter as a first-year coach.
“She told me this morning she had a binder prepared for me,” Moreno said with a chuckle. “She’ll kind of be my mentor, which is great.”
Although Moreno is a newbie on the coaching scene, she certainly has plenty of volleyball knowledge to back up her quest.
After graduating from North Port in 2011, Moreno played two years of volleyball at Palm Beach State University, where she had a team-best 62 blocks in 2011 and was fourth in kills, with 93. She then transferred to St. Thomas University, where she 6-foot-1 middle blocker was named co-captain and owned a .188 hitting percentage that was second-best on the team. Moreno also had 38 blocks and 34 block assists.
Moreno then transferred to FIU in order to complete her degree in psychology. She was just wrapping up her final semester of college when Halbert contacted her.
“Adrienne has just been always one of those people that left such an amazing legacy here,” said Halbert, who stepped down following the 2016 season in order to spend time with her three young children. “I was thinking of former people who did well in the program, that know the program and care about it. We’ve worked really hard to make it thrive, and wanted someone who would continue to build on what we had going.
“I think Adrienne is going to do an amazing job with this. She has passion and she’s a great leader, and I think she will be a really, really good role model for the girls.”
Moreno’s sister, Allie Moreno, will graduate from North Port in a few weeks, and the Bobcats volleyball standout has already expressed interest in helping out her older sister as a volunteer next season.
Adrienne is looking forward to the added comfort and insight Allie will provide after playing the past four seasons under Halbert, with many of the team’s current and future players.
Even with a college education’s worth of time between her and high school, Moreno admitted it didn’t take much to bring her right back to the good old days.
“Honestly, going back (to the high school) this morning in the meeting, we stood up to do the Pledge of Allegiance and it all came back to me,” she said. “I’m definitely very excited to have an influence on the kids’ lives, coach them and help them, and hopefully get some of them to be able to play college like I did.
“I can’t wait to get started.”