BROOKSVILLE — The path to get there was a bumpy one, but Tuesday night Springstead clinched the team’s first state postseason berth in school history.
The Eagles swept Central 25-21, 25-22, 25-23 in the Class 5A, District 7 semifinals to assure a spot in the region quarterfinals and put the team in Thursday’s district championship game.
Springstead (17-6) started the season on fire, but the path to the playoffs was challenged when captain Carly Wiggins sustained an injury earlier in the season. Just when she was able to return, the team’s kills leader, Megan Morrison, went down with a major ankle injury. Morrison was in uniform Tuesday but she didn’t play.
“The doctor said Megan’s a month away from being fully recovered,” Springstead coach Darcy Hinton said. “She could play some back row, but we’re not going to risk it. We choose athletes first and wins second at Springstead. I don’t anticipate her being able to play (for the rest of this season).”
The Eagles clawed back from large deficits in the second and third games, showing just how far they have come even with what has been a revolving lineup.
“We knew we had to fill in (Morrison’s) shoes,” hitter Zoe Mannino said, “but it had to be a team effort.”
After keeping a steady lead and winning the first game, Springstead found itself down 20-14. From there, the Eagles went on an 11-2 run to win the game and put the Bears (9-14) on the ropes. Wiggins (13 kills, one ace) and Mannino (game-high 14 kills) began to click at the net.
Central made one final stand to start the third game, going up 13-7, but Springstead fired back with an 8-2 run to tie the score. Raqurra Ishmar and Tikiera Relaford (eight kills each) did the best they could to keep the Bears’ season alive.
“It was humbling (to have those injuries in the middle of the season),” Wiggins said. “We have to stay positive because we’ve been able to come back from behind, and we have to know we can do that.”