Volleyball coach Sam Cibrone has been pounding the ball at his players in preparation for Pasco-Hernando Community College's third consecutive national appearance.
"At the national level, they serve very tough, so I've been really exaggerating the serves at practice," Cibrone said.
"If you can't block, you're in for a long tournament, because those girls are powerful hitters."
PHCC (29-12) will be one of 16 teams, including two from Florida, in the National Junior College Athletic Association Championships.
The double-elimination tournament is Nov. 19-21 at Southwest Missouri State.
Miami-Dade CC, the nation's top-ranked team, qualified by defeating PHCC in the state final.
PHCC won three consecutive matches in the state tournament before losing to Miami-Dade.
Last year, PHCC was seeded 11th and finished a school-best 11th.
But Cibrone has greater expectations this time around.
"We did what we were supposed to do (last year), but this year I'm hoping to break into the top eight," he said.
"The starting six is not as strong as the starting six from last year, but I would say on the whole we're stronger (this year). We have a lot more depth."
That depth includes a pair of former Pasco County All-Sunshine Athletic Conference players in Brandy Krieg (Ridgewood) and Brandi Young (River Ridge).
The Conquistadors, winners of 12 Suncoast Conference championships in their 12-year existence, placed 15th in the 1999 nationals.
Leading PHCC is Cathy "Cat" Cline, the lone sophomore on a team of freshman.
"She controls the ball," Cibrone said of Cline, a defensive specialist who leads the team in aces (87) and is second in digs (261) behind Quinn Davidson's 356.
"Cathy's been on fire," Cibrone said.
"She's experienced and she knows this is the time you've got to step up."
Erin Stoen also is a key contributor. The middle blocker leads PHCC in blocks (132) and kills (289), and is second in hitting percentage (.318).
Kim Yaney is the team's assist leader (575) and Nicole Cattrysse has the highest hitting percentage (.353) and is second in kills (231).
LIONS VOLLEYBALL: Saint Leo's season concluded last week with three consecutive losses.
The Lions finished 15-17 overall and 3-11 in the Sunshine State Conference.
TOP ROOKIE: Saint Leo soccer player Anthony Rosso has been named co-freshman of the year and made the All-Sunshine State Conference second team.
A forward from Tarpon Springs, Rosso led the Lions in goals (10) and points (24), tying for third in the conference in goals and finishing third in points.
No other Saint Leo soccer player made all-conference.
HOOP TOURNAMENT: The Saint Leo women's basketball team hosts the Sleep Inn Classic beginning Friday against Flagler College at 7 p.m.
Southwest State and Nova Southeastern also are in the tournament.
The Saint Leo men's basketball team opens the season at 2 p.m. Saturday against Puerto Rico-Mayaguez.
PANCAKE CHAMP: Saint Leo cross country runner Scott Habershaw won the Land O'Lakes Flapjack 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) race earlier this month.
Habershaw, who ran cross country and track at Land O'Lakes, completed the course in 18 minutes, 2 seconds.