Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014
Weeki Wachee

Burke makes history as Weeki Wachee's first signee

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For a school as young as Weeki Wachee, there are bound to be plenty of firsts.

A member of the third-year school's first graduating class, Danielle Burke, became the first athlete to sign on with a college program.

Burke, a setter for the Lady Hornets, inked with Trinity College, an evangelical interdenominational Bible college located in Pasco County-based Trinity.

The Lady Tigers play within the National Christian College Athletic Association Division II.

"I'm proud of myself for getting there," Burke said. "A lot of talented people graduated this year. There are a lot of talented people still there and I know they'll do great things.

"I'll always have it in my heart and head that I made it and I was the first, but I'm not going to throw it in people's faces."

Joining Trinity - the first practice is Aug. 5 - is the realization of a dream Burke has had since she began playing volleyball at as a seventh-grader at Hernando Christian Academy.

She was part of the Lady Lions' junior varsity squad for three years before coming to then just-opened Weeki Wachee as a sophomore.

After her brother's graduation from HCA, Burke and her family decided to give public school a shot. Before attending HCA, she had gone to Spring Hill Christian Academy.

Though zoned for Springstead, a fresh start at the newly minted Weeki Wachee campus was more appealing.

"Everyone said I would struggle going to public school," Burke said. "The first day was a little scary. But after a week or so, everyone was close, like a family. Going through three years there, it's still like a family."

Burke had been a hitter at HCA, but when Weeki Wachee began as a JV club in 2010, it lacked a setter.

"Coach asked everyone to set," Burke said. "She said my hands looked good and she could train me to be a setter.

"I think setting is a little harder of a position. There are so many hitters on the court at one time, anyway. As a setter, you're in control of what happens on the court. You're always in the play."

Burke and her teammates have endured typical growing pains over the past two seasons on the varsity level. The Lady Hornets went 4-15, then 3-21.

"It was kind of tough, because we never played together (previously)," Burke said. "We had to build chemistry.

"I think each year I got better as a player. The last year I had really good sets."

???Originally, Burke was looking at attending St. Leo University, but only for academics. When she contacted the coach there, she was told the team was done recruiting and that she could only join as a walk-on the following year.

At that point she got in touch with Trinity head coach Rachel Noble, who invited Burke to an open gym.

"They ended up contacting me two weeks later, saying I made the team," Burke said. "Finding a place to play was a big relief for me."

By choosing a Bible school, Burke was also excited about the opportunity to "grow stronger with my faith," and went on to say that "I couldn't have done any of this without the Lord."

She plans to study psychology with an eye toward going into the FBI Academy.

On the court, she'll jump right into the fire. She's the only setter on the roster.

"Improve my play, become a stronger player," Burke said of her goals, adding, "come together as a team."

cbernhardt@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5288

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