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West Coast talent boosts Bears

Central coach Jim Jensen was on his way to a staff meeting on the first day of postschool when his phone rang. A new student interested in playing volleyball wanted to meet with him.

"What grade is she?" Jensen asked.

"She's a junior."

"Where is she coming from?'

"California."

"I'll be right down," Jensen said.

Knowing the Golden State's reputation for producing talent, Jensen didn't mind being late for his meeting.

Turns out, Lisa Butler was worth his while. The left outside hitter fit in immediately with new teammates and has become one of the go-to players for the Bears, who won 20 matches for the first time in Jensen's seven years while extending their playoff streak to four seasons.

"She's done a great job," Jensen said. "From the beginning of the season to now, she's probably our most consistent all-around player as far as serves and hitting and passing."

Butler played club volleyball for three seasons in California and was a middle hitter at Westview High, near San Diego, last season. She moved to Florida after her father retired from Kyocera.

It was not an easy move for the lifelong California resident, whom her teammates call Cali.

"The surroundings are a lot different," Butler said. "It's a lot more rural than I thought it would be. There are no mountains and stuff like that. Plus, I had a lot of friends. I grew up there, so it hit me really hard."

Volleyball helped ease the transition.

"It was my first way of socially getting used to Florida, because I made some really good friends," Butler said. "Plus, I got to see more of Florida because we went to all these different high schools."

Before she had seen Central play, Butler hoped to be a captain and perhaps team MVP. But after watching teammates practice for the first time, she wondered if she would even make the team.

It turned out to be a lot of worrying over nothing.

"There's been some matches where we've relied on her big time, and she's stepped up big time," Jensen said. "At the beginning of the season, she was kind of out of position from time to time, probably because of a difference in system and difference in philosophies in what she's used to. But she's made those changes on her own, and now she's at the right place at the right time and I think that's why she's improved her overall game."

Butler was unstoppable during the Class 4A, District 9 tournament, making 14 kills against Citrus and eight against Crystal River to help Central into the final, where it lost to top-seeded Clermont East Ridge. With a little seasoning, Jensen expects Butler to get even better.

"She understands the game pretty well, and I think she knows there's a possibility this could be in her future beyond high school," Jensen said.

"I think she's good enough to do that, so we're going to tinker with it, get her vertical up there a little bit in the offseason and just tinker with her swing a little bit. She hits the ball pretty hard. Some days she'll hit it harder than others. I think when she really gets her technique down, well, I'm excited about it."

_ Frank Pastor can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 1430. Send e-mail to pastorsptimes.com.

INTRODUCING: LISA BUTLER

NICKNAME: Cali

ACTIVITIES: Volleyball, softball.

FAVORITE FOOD: Mexican.

FAVORITE TV SHOW: Saturday Night Live ("Anything with Will Ferrell or Darrell Hammond").

FAVORITE MOVIE: Lord of the Rings.

FAVORITE MUSIC: Punk rock.

INTERESTS: Going to the beach, hanging out with friends, listening to music.

FUTURE: Would like to play volleyball or softball and study medicine in college. Eventually hopes to become a nurse.

REGION QUARTERFINALS

CLASS 4A, REGION 3

WHO: Central (20-7) at Hudson (22-4)

AT STAKE: A spot opposite the Auburndale-Tampa Bay Tech winner in Saturday's semifinals and a chance to host the next two rounds.

CLASS 3A, REGION 2

WHO: Williston at Hernando (21-3).

WHEN: 7 tonight.

AT STAKE: A spot opposite the Melbourne Central Catholic -Orlando Bishop Moore winner in Saturday's semifinals and a chance to host the next two rounds.

_ Compiled by Frank Pastor.

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