Class 4A, District 8
When: Today, Thursday, and Friday.
Where: Land O'Lakes High School.
Schedule: Wednesday _ Game 1: Central (11-11) vs. Zephyrhills (9-13), 6 p.m.; Game 2: Hudson (14-8) vs. Pasco (0-19), 8 p.m.; Thursday _ Game 3: Hernando (24-2) vs. Game 1 winner, 6 p.m.; Game 4: Land O'Lakes (22-6) vs. Game 2 winner; Friday _ Championship game: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 6 p.m.
Outlook: Hernando coach Kimi Hellenberg's only concern is the pressure facing the Leopards. "I hope the girls aren't coming in thinking "We gotta win, we gotta win, we gotta win,'
" she said. "There's a lot of pressure, from parents and the kids at school. I've just told them that no matter what, our worst record will be something-and-3. That's pretty good."
Still, Hernando is expected to win. The Leopards have seven seniors, including back-row specialists Jackie Springstead and Carrie Bishop, and strong net players in Sara Bartos and Tinsley Gordon. When Gordon is on, it seems to fire her team up, and they are unquestionably the finest defensive team on the North Suncoast.
Central can be very good or very bad. The Bears lost to Springstead twice, but have beaten Hudson and Hernando, the Leopards' lone district blemish.
"I think if we hit on all cylinders, we can do well," said coach Wayne Miller. "It just depends. We've been very inconsistent."
The Bears are led by hitters Debbie Mills, the team's only senior, and Natalie Zinn.
Because of work being done on the Central floor, the Bears have been practicing outside this week.
Class 5A, District 7
When: Today, Thursday and Friday.
Where: East Lake High School.
Schedule: Today _ Game 1: Dunedin vs. Gulf (2-15), 5:30 p.m.; Game 2: Ridgewood (8-9) vs. Tarpon Springs (16-9), 6:30 p.m.; Game 3: East Lake (16-7) vs. Springstead (8-12), 7:30 p.m. Thursday _ Game 4: Clearwater (18-4) vs. Game 3 winner, 6 p.m.; Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 7 p.m. Friday _ Game 6: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 5:30 p.m.
Outlook: The Eagles draw the hosts for tonight's opening game, which won't make their task of advancing any easier. Either could end the season with a 1-3 slump.
Springstead dropped its final two games to Hernando and River Ridge. "It's not a good way to finish the season," said coach Lionel Thornton. "You want to go into the districts on a positive note. But we did have some things happen in those games that were positive."
Most notable, the Eagles got good hitting from Niki Holmes and Lila Nickalas, two players Thornton has been waiting on. Natasha Mikulski is back on the front row hitting after a brief turn at setting in mid-season ("We missed her firepower."), and Springstead has gotten solid play from Laura Roselli and Allison Levan for most of the year.
"They have the ability, it's just a matter of convincing them of that," said Thornton. "We can play with anybody if the kids go in with that attitude."