The Springstead Eagles (9-2) defeated the Crystal River Pirates (2-5) by a decisive 3-0 score on Thursday night. Despite an impressive eight-game winning streak to start the season, the home team was looking to bounce back from a pair of dropped matches over the holiday weekend. The visitors were hoping to score a much-needed win following a slow start to their season. The Eagles did not allow that though, as the Red, White, and Blue rode a dominating second set to a clean sweep of the Pirates. So, what contributed to Springstead’s struggles against Giddings and Chicago University over the holiday weekend and how would the team address it?
“We were coming off of a long weekend and of a tournament and definitely battling some sicknesses,” Springstead Head Coach Andrea Gracey said. “We had girls playing in positions that they typically don’t play-in on the championship game because we were down some players. So, I think just being prepared to always go in, being prepared to execute for your team – it’s a team sport – and the girls did show up well in those areas.”
The team’s preparedness felt evident on Thursday. After the Eagles relinquished the first point on an errant serve in the opening set, Junior Outside Hitter Emily Miller got the scoring started for the home team. Springstead quickly jumped out to a 7-2 lead due in part to a stray hit by Pirates Senior Outside Hitter Kierstan Warfel and a successful block by Eagles Senior Outside Hitter and Middle Blocker Ezryel Thompson. The match proceeded as a back-and-forth affair until the first timeout of the period with the scoreboard reading 13-10 in Springstead’s favor. Coming out of the break, Sophomore Defensive Specialist Deliana Rivera’s serve sailed out of bounds, awarding the point to the home team. This started another run for the Eagles as they saw their lead balloon to an 18-11 advantage enroute to a 25-18 victory in the initial set.
Springstead proceeded to strike while the iron was hot in the second set. A pair of errant hits by Kierstan Warfel awarded the Eagles two early points before Crystal River called a timeout while down 5-0 in an attempt to stop the bleeding. This did not have much of an effect on the trajectory of the set, however, as Ezryel Thompson scored the next two points for the Eagles. The visitors managed to get on the board when Springstead Junior Setter Sarah Tipton’s serve sailed outside the line making the score 7-1. This was only a momentary reprieve. The home team extended their lead to a commanding 18 points thanks to miscues by the Pirates and more scores from players such as Emily Miller and Tipton. The penultimate set ended 25-7.
The final set was the most hard fought of the three. A block by Senior Outside Hitter Bailee Einspahr served as the first of three scores by the visitors. The home team would then again show why they won eight games in a row to begin the season. Thanks in part to another pair of scores by Thompson, they scored eight straight points to bring the score to an 8-3 advantage at the timeout. Later in the period, Crystal River found themselves in a deficit similar to that of the opener. This time, down 18-10, the Pirates fought back with five straight points thanks to some serendipitous serves by Einspahr. With their lead now threatened, Springstead called a timeout with the score resting at 18-15. Thompson would then record two more pivotal scores to put the game away. Directly out of the break, the senior blocked Junior Ashley Stayler’s spike. A later serve by Thompson proved to be the game-winning point. The ball careened off a pair of Pirates and landed out of bounds giving the Eagles the 25-18 victory for the set and the 3-0 win on the night.
“I look to all my captains to really step up, but [Thompson] is not only verbally, but physically an asset to our team,” Coach Gracey said when asked of Ezryel Thompson’s impact. “And the girls look to her just for that confidence. But I have some other younger girls too that really step up and that’s Emily Miller. She does really, really well and I think they’re meshing well together. They’re starting to click with the setter, and with [Thompson] coming in as a transfer for senior, that’s something you have to pick up being a senior coming in and learning our setter. So, it’s a different offense, but she’s just a remarkable leader on and off the court and the girls really look up to her.”
Thompson’s presence has been tangibly felt on the team since her transferring to Springstead and if she can continue to “mesh” with Miller and the rest of the team, the future looks bright for Coach Gracey’s squad. The Eagles will look to build on their momentum with an away game at Nature Coast Tech (2-3) on Tuesday night.