Karli Collins may not be the coolest kid in the world, but she may have the coolest backyard.
Years ago, her parents turned it into regulation-size beach volleyball court.
"It's pretty awesome," said Karli, a senior Sponger steeped in the kind of versatility she learned playing in sand.
For example, Karli can set. She can dig. She can block. She can hit.
Her sister, Kelsi, is almost as good, and if one of set of volleyball-playing sisters wasn't enough, Tarpon Springs coach Patrick Sneed has two.
While the Collinses provide the grit and scrappiness (neither is taller than 5-foot-7), Micah and Ashlyn MacGregor supply the size up front, both standing roughly 6-foot. Micah is a senior and Ashlyn a sophomore.
With two-thirds of their line-up a sisters act, the Spongers have proved to be competitive in 2010, and maybe a little dangerous.
Heading into this week's Class 5A, District 11 tournament at Clearwater, the Spongers are seeded No. 3 and scheduled to take on No. 2 Clearwater.
"We're literally a few points away from breaking into that top 7 you guys do," Sneed said. "I think the confidence is there because the improvement is there. It seems like everything is clicking. My players don't play all year long, so sometimes it takes a while for the wheels to start spinning the right way for us."
That may be changing, as three of the sisters (everyone except for Micah McGregor) play club.
And the Collinses bring an added seriousness to the team.
Their mother, Donna, a former college player, is an assistant coach and headed up the junior varsity team for three seasons. Their younger brother Reilly plays volleyball for Tarpon Springs Middle, and younger sister Elly competes for the Pinellas Heat club program.
Of course, many of their talents are forged in the back yard, with parents competing against siblings in some competitive family matches.
"I guess I'll be nice and say they win once in a while," Karli said, chuckling. "It can be intense."
Karli uses that intensity as the leader of the Spongers. She is like a football fullback, Sneed said, "one of those undersized players that will run through a wall if you ask her and probably has."
Her versatility makes her invaluable. She leads the team in assists, though she doesn't particularly like setting. She is also No. 1 on the team in aces and digs.
But the highlight of her season? Playing with Kelsi, a freshman.
The two have talked for years about playing together, having enjoyed doing so in the family back yard. To do it in high school, even if for only one season, has made the year special.
"We are really tight," Karli said. "We talked about how cool it would be to play together. … It's a bummer we can only do it for one season."
The plan then is to stretch out the 2010 season as long as they can. That means upsetting Clearwater on Wednesday and clinching a postseason berth for the Spongers, who are 12-10 and haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2004.
"We are really going to try so hard," Karli said. "I definitely think we can win and at least do better than we have in the past. If we all play our best game, it can definitely happen."