PINELLAS PARK — For a season that started like all the others, with another new coach, the beginning of the 2009 campaign for Northeast players seemed grim.
Combined with the loss of five senior starters, Lauren Campbell thought a return trip to the 5A-12 district final was unlikely. But Northeast rookie coach Amanda McGowan, who starred at Seminole before taking her game to West Florida, instilled confidence and tenacity with six days of practice a week and tougher than usual drills.
"We immediately knew things would be different," Campbell said. "We rolled up and down the football field, doing things like wheelbarrow races. She's helped make us tougher throughout the season, even making us do 36 sprawls earlier this week for missing serves in our last (regular-season) game."
The toughness in the Vikings showed Friday as they rallied from an 0-1 deficit to beat Boca Ciega, 22-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-20.
Campbell was instrumental, recording 23 kills, including nine in Game 4 in which the Vikings (10-8) trailed 4-1 early.
"When Lauren's in the front row, we definitely feed her, especially when she's hot like that," McGowan said.
The Pirates rallied with four consecutive points to close the first set, which saw neither team hold a lead larger than three points. The Vikings responded with a 9-0 run during one of Campbell's service rotations.