The coach was new, the play was sloppy.
People pointed fingers.
Some at other players, some at the coach.
Seven Rivers Christian was out of synch.
"We weren't really playing our game," junior Alice Zeiss said.
A few of the older players had seen enough.
Senior Amy Cortese and Zeiss called a team meeting to get the message across that if the Warriors didn't pick up the pace, their season would end prematurely.
"We all got together and decided to change things and play as hard as we could," Zeiss said.
Whatever was said must have worked.
The Warriors (19-5) enter the Class A playoffs, which start tonight, on a hot streak. In winning last week's District 4 tournament, the Warriors defeated Ocala St. John Lutheran (20-3) in four games. St. John Lutheran won both regular-season matches.
"Everyone pulled together and played as hard as they could," Zeiss said. "If they messed up, they kept playing harder. We need to keep playing like that, with unity. We need to play as hard as we can to try to win state."
Nobody was more pleased by the title than coach Jamie Richard, who is Seven Rivers' third leader in as many seasons. Richard inherited a winning program, but was a first-time varsity coach.
"People were sick of having new coaches," junior Rachel Ebert said. "And we didn't know him that well. It's kind of hard to make changes every year. The whole team started out with not a good attitude. It was kind of frustrating, but I knew that it was a little slump and the girls would pull out of it."
Richard had to learn on the fly.
"I was probably easier on them than what they had experienced in the past," Richard said. "I didn't want to come in and blast them. I didn't want them to turn on me. I've been riding their backs all season because of my youth as a coach."
Eventually, the coach toughened.
He practiced the squad harder and was "exact with my criticism." Then the meeting took place and everything came together.
The Warriors played well at an October tournament in Crystal River, but were erratic much of the regular season. In the losses to St. John Lutheran, they failed to close the deal, fading late in each. But when big plays were needed last week, Seven Rivers produced.
"You should see their faces today," Richard said the next day. "There were a lot of hugs last night."
_ Keith Niebuhr can be reached at 860-7337 or online at niebuhrsptimes.com.