Photography by CHERYL CLANTON
As we approach the end of Volleyball season, district games are upon us. With that, the Hernando Sun decided to check in with Hernando County’s teams for an update.
Head Coach for Springstead’s Volleyball team Andrea Gracey shared some insight on her team.
She remarks, “Naturally, the start has been rough; navigating Covid and the new mental aspect of the game that’s come with it has been tough. Covid restrictions have also resulted in a condensed season, so this means less practice time and four games crammed in per week. That is a lot to juggle for student-athletes.” Coach Gracey exclaimed how impressed she is with her team’s ability to come together as a family and with respect. “They have worked hard and persevered through the ups and downs together and really makes me proud and honored to be their coach,” she shared. Their best match she said was the away game against NCT.
The key players for this season are everyone. “With the struggles of Covid and busy schedules mixed in, we have to constantly try new line-ups as to not get burnt out. Any of the team members are ready to step up at a moment’s notice,” she explained. There is a big senior class at SHS this year and they bring a lot of value and leadership to the team. This is appreciated as they had a gap with graduating their team setter and Freshman Isabella Nunag and Emily Miller stepped up to the plate. Coach Gracey states, “It’s great to see our program thrive and building a culture of family.”
Their goal for districts coming up is to “fight until the last whistle call!” It’s anyone match to take but it has to be earned, which is what the Eagles plan on doing. They plan to focus on their game and play with heart. Coming in currently with a record of 4-9.
Head coach for the Nature Coast Tech Volleyball team, Emily Gore, also shared how her team was doing. For NCT, the condensed season has been a challenge as well. Playing so many games within the week brings fatigue for players and doesn’t leave too many options for practice. Plus, they only have two seniors on their team this year. Though, Coach Gore states, “Our young players have shown progress in a short amount of time.” Key players for the team are: Senior, Libero Sabrina Sessa and Senior outside hitter, Courtney Wenrich.
Their best-played matches were their first game against Hernando and their first game against Springstead. Unfortunately, NCT lost their district match against “a solid tall strong Wesley Chapel team.” Their final record is 5-8.
Kris Brooks, head coach at Central informed us that the biggest challenge of this season is establishing stability. With over eight coaches in ten years, it’s been hard to establish an identity for the program. Coach Brooks stated, “One of the biggest things myself and Maria Gebhardt (Assistant Coach/JV Head Coach) have been trying to do is create a foundation we can build upon. It’s been a tough and long process, but we are willing to put the time and work to make it happen. We know it’s not going to be an overnight thing or even a one-season thing. It will take time to do what we are trying to accomplish.”
Brooks said their best matches were against a very good Citrus team; where CHS held leads in two sets, but just weren’t able to finish those sets which cost them the game. The second match was against Weeki Wachee where they again, played a tough game and held leads in two sets. After these two games, Coach Brooks saw the talent and potential within the Bears team. The sky is their limit, they just need to believe they have what it takes to compete.
Their biggest strength is the work ethic that the girls bring to the team. Every day these girls come to practice wanting to improve and it’s starting to show. Brooks says, “If you are looking at the box score you might think ‘what is he talking about?’ But if you are watching our games you can see the improvement. We just need to get consistency.”
Key players this season are Michelle Geiger, Jocelyn Velez, and Kaidyn Steadman. All three have set the tone since day one. Also, Julia Sesera as an outside hitter has given CHS a lot of kills. Dionna Knox playing setter has done a great job at setting those kills and Gianna Karnow has done an excellent job as our libero. When she is not on the court you can see a difference in the back row.
Heading into districts, their goals are to win at least one set. Once that happens, the rest will fall into place. Their record is currently 0-12.
An update on the Hernando High School Leopards athletics page read that Lady Leopards Volleyball finished strong this season. They finished their 6-6 season with a 3-1 victory over Springstead’s Eagles last week. Coach Robin Bailey remarked, “We beat Springstead tonight in 4 games. The girls came very determined to win the last game of our regular season. A season that none of us thought would happen. Zoey Grant was on fire with her serves tonight. As always, this team plays hard and scrappy and pushed for the win. Looking forward to districts next week. LET’S BRING IT LADY LEOPARDS!” In the district semifinal, Hernando took on powerhouse Weeki Wachee Tuesday evening on the Hornets’ home turf. They lost the semi-final 3-0 to the Hornets.
The win against Hernando brings Weeki Wachee to 15-0 overall. The Weeki Wachee Hornets are the only undefeated team in the county and have a district record of 6-0. They rank #31 in the state of Florida according to MaxPreps. In their first district playoff match against Cypress Creek/Wesley Chapel on Monday night, they won three games to none, which took them to the Tuesday evening matchup against Hernando and the district semifinals. Winning the semifinals advances them to the Thursday, Oct. 15 District final.