After Nature Coast's regular-season victory over Land O'Lakes, the one that earned the Sharks the top seed for this week's district tournament, junior outside hitter Courtney Liddle began the task of nursing her aching body back to full strength.
Liddle packed ice around her right shoulder, which minutes earlier had torched the Gators for 30 kills.
After leaping into the air and landing probably 100 times during the five-game match, Liddle's knees were swollen and sore, so she wrapped more ice around them.
A final cold pack stretched across her abdomen, held in place by a single layer of clear plastic wrap.
Liddle is one of a handful of volleyball players feeling the effects of a demanding regular-season schedule on top of daily practices and club competitions.
With district tournaments starting this week, the phrase limping into the postseason has never been more appropriate, at least regarding North Suncoast volleyball. A number of teams are dealing with injuries that have left them depleted.
A sprained ankle will keep Springstead junior Megan Morrison, one of the area's top players, out of the playoffs and has marred an otherwise spectacular season for the Eagles.
Land O'Lakes, the last area team to lose after beginning the season 13-0, is also less than 100 percent. Teresa Della Penna and Morgan Crescent, the team's setters and leading attackers, have been hobbled with nagging injuries.
Della Penna pulled her hamstring diving for a ball in a win against Ridgewood. Although the injury isn't severe enough to keep her out of matches, Della Penna wears a brace to prevent further damage.
"It's probably feeling the best it's been all season," Della Penna said. "I'm definitely playing on it better. I'm getting my speed and agility back. There was a time when I wasn't playing my full speed."
Crescent, a multisport athlete, sprained her ankle midway through the season at a weekend soccer tournament. She too continued playing, despite having to use crutches to exit the gym after matches.
"It hurts anytime I move side to side and when I jump, so yeah, pretty much all the time," she joked. "I feel it a lot. It hasn't had a chance to heal. I'd say I'm at about 65 to 70 percent."
With the most important portion of the season now approaching, Crescent isn't alone.
5A-7 at Central
Schedule: Tuesday — Springstead (2) vs. Central (3), 7 p.m.; West Port (4) vs. Ocala Forest (1), 7; Thursday — final, 7.
The scoop: Springstead defeated Central twice during the regular season and split with Ocala Forest. A revamped lineup, though, will make qualifying for region more difficult.
4A-7 at Mitchell
Schedule: Tuesday — Hudson (1) vs. Fivay (8), 3; Gulf (3) vs. Ridgewood (6), 4:30; Anclote (4) vs. Wesley Chapel (5), 6; Mitchell (2) vs. Pasco (7), 7:30; Wednesday — Mitchell/Pasco winner vs. Gulf/Ridgewood winner, 5; Hudson/Fivay winner vs. Anclote/Wesley Chapel winner, 7; Thursday — final, 7.
The scoop: Sophomore Logan McGee leads a battle-tested Hudson squad, but opening against Fivay is no automatic win. Mitchell is the No. 2 seed after losing to Hudson in the first match of the season. The Mustangs knocked off Hudson at the Fivay Invitational, though. Gulf also owns a win over Hudson, which underscores how wide open this tournament is.
4A-8 at Hernando
Schedule: Monday — Lecanto (8) vs. Citrus (9), 6:30; Tuesday — Land O'Lakes (2) vs. Sunlake (7), 1; Hernando (3) vs. River Ridge (6), 3; Nature Coast (1) vs. Lecanto/Citrus winner, 5; Zephyrhills (4) vs. Wiregrass Ranch (5), 7; Wednesday — Land O'Lakes/Sunlake winner vs. Hernando/River Ridge winner, 5; Zephyrhills/Wiregrass winner vs. Nature Coast/Lecanto/Citrus winner, 7; Thursday — final, 7.
The scoop: Keep an eye on Hernando. The Leopards defeated top-seeded Nature Coast two-games-to-one at the Lady Noles Invitational last weekend and already own a victory over Land O'Lakes. Either Zephyrhills or Wiregrass Ranch would be a dangerous semifinal matchup for Nature Coast.
2A-10 at Tampa Prep
Schedule: Monday — Bishop McLaughlin (4) vs. Brooks-DeBartolo (5), 7; Tuesday — Indian Rocks Christian (2) vs. Calvary Christian (3), 6; Tampa Prep (1) vs. Bishop McLaughlin/Brooks-DeBartolo winner, 7:30; Friday— final, 7.
The scoop: Tampa Prep has won the last two district titles and was a state finalist a year ago. IRC is on a nine-match winning streak, sweeping its opponent in each victory. Behind player of the year candidate Jessica Johnson, Bishop McLaughlin believes it can upset the vaunted Terrapins and earn the school's first-ever playoff appearance.
A-8 at Bayshore Christian
Schedule: Monday — Hernando Christian (4) vs. Citrus Park Christian (5), 6; Tuesday — Bayshore Christian (2) vs. Seffner Christian (3), 5; Bradenton Christian (1) vs. Hernando Christian/Citrus Park Christian winner, 7; Thursday — final, 7.
The scoop: Bayshore Christian won the district last year and advanced to the region final, but this year it is the No. 2 seed, in part because the Faith Warriors no longer have Gabby Fernandez on their team. The powerful 6-footer transferred to Tampa Prep during the offseason. Bradenton Christian won all of its district matches in three games, except for a head-scratching five-game loss to Seffner Christian. Still, the Panthers are the overwhelming favorite.
Schedule: Monday — Lakeside Christian (4) vs. Carrollwood Day (5) at Canterbury, 5; Keswick Christian (3) vs. Academy at the Lakes (6) at Cambridge, 5; Berean Academy (8) at Canterbury (1), 7; Tampa Bay Christian (7) at Cambridge (2), 7; Tuesday — Cambridge Christian/Tampa Bay Christian winner vs. Keswick Christian/Academy at the Lakes winner at Cambridge, 5; Canterbury/Berean Academy winner vs. Lakeside Christian/Carrollwood Day winner at Canterbury, 7; Thursday — final at Cambridge, 7.
The scoop: Canterbury dropped just three games in district play all year. Keswick and Cambridge split during the regular season and are likely fighting for second place.