On Tuesday night, the Springstead Eagles (6-6) swept the Nature Coast Tech Sharks (5-4) in three sets at the Shark Tank. While the home team had started the season strong, they came into the matchup having lost two out of the last three and were hoping to avoid dropping three out of four. That was not meant to be, as Senior OH Emily Miller and the Eagles are on an upward trajectory. Since starting 3-6, Springstead won back-to-back games by 3-2 margins before Miller’s strong performance spurred the visitors to Tuesday’s 3-0 victory.
“She just continues to bring a different level of energy that the girls always really strive to play to,” Eagles Coach Andrea Gracey said. “She’s smart in those critical moments. Whether she’s front row, back row, she just keeps her composure. So, a lot of our younger girls were feeding off that, knowing the court awareness, how to play smarter. So, she’s been really critical as a senior as well as Isabella, our center.”
The Red, White, and Blue jumped all over the Sharks in the first half of set one to the tune of eight straight points and a 16-6 lead. This was thanks to a litany of mistakes by the home team that included spiking multiple balls into the net and out of bounds. The latter portion of the period would be slightly more engaging as Junior OH/MH Addison Carpenter broke Springstead’s scoring streak with a hit that careened off an Eagles defender out of bounds. She scored various ways via spiking, serving, and tipping the ball over to give her team a chance in the opening period. As if to almost directly answer her, Miller spiked the ball towards Carpenter, and it ricocheted out of bounds for the Eagles’ score. This would be one of the senior’s two kills to go with one block in the first set. The other kill ended the set in the visitors’ favor 25-20.
The penultimate frame saw the home team fall behind by as many as six points while drawing even with Springstead four times throughout. The near comeback was the result of an all-around team effort to tie the game at 21-all. That was when Miller took over. She logged two of her four scores in the set (three kills) during the final four points of the period. All four of the final points went the visitors’ way as Coach Gracey’s squad emerged victorious 25-21 in the second. Two points resulted from serendipitous calls for the Eagles by the referees, while the first and last were kills by Miller.
While the final frame ended in the same result, the leader was inverted for much of the set. Nature Coast led for most of the final stanza and held a modest 16-12 lead midway through. Three hits would sail out of bounds on her early on, but Miller would go on to put on a clinic in set three, as she would be responsible for seven scores with a block to boot. Yet again, two of the final four scores were a direct result of the senior: one a kill and the other a set that landed just in bounds. Miller and company finished the frame 25-19 for the picture-perfect sweep.
“There were moments in games that we are down, but they don’t worry about the score,” Coach Gracey said. “They worry about what do we need to do to better the ball and then they come back and make it happen. So, I’m really proud. Younger team, lot of mental aspects of the game of volleyball, and the girls just continue to build off the mentality aspect and coming together as a family.”
Looking ahead to each squad’s next matchup, Nature Coast will look to get back on track and finish strong when they host the Fivay Falcons (1-11). Against a team that has struggled mightily this season, Wednesday night’s matchup should afford the home team the opportunity to work on concepts and get better. The Eagles will also be home on Wednesday night as they take on Weeki Wachee (4-13). A group that also seems to be coming together down the stretch, the Hornets defeated Nature Coast last week and have won three out of their last four outings.