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Players glad to be on court

As teams settle down after six hurricane school closures, volleyball is getting back on schedule.

Crystal River played host this past weekend to the River Classic, an eight-team pool-play competition. The Pirates lost in the winner's bracket in the Gold division to Lakeland, 22-25, 25-13, 11-15.

"When I saw these teams, I asked myself, "Who did I invite in here?" ' Crystal River coach Brigit Boshell said.

After being evacuated to Franklin, N.C., for Hurricane Ivan, senior outside hitter Amber Clark, who lives in Inglis, was happy to be playing.

"I was glad to be back," said Clark, who was named to the all-tournament team. "I should have been here last week, but my mom wanted us to leave."

Crystal River lost to Lecanto last week in a key match, which the Pirates played without Clark and her sister, Ashley. Crystal River opened the season 1-3, but has improved its record to 6-5.

"We got off to a slow start, but we're building," Ja'Vonna Grimsley said.

Boshell is happy to see success. Grimsley, a senior, leads the Pirates with 21 aces, 32 service points and 34 kills. Defensive specialist Joy Henry has 30 digs.

"Ja'Vonna and Amber Clark have just been great leaders this season," Boshell said. "We are going in a good direction."

Seven Rivers went 2-3 in the tournament and won the silver, lower-pool bracket with a 25-20, 25-20 victory over Central.

"It was a little bit of redemption," Jamie Richard said.

Seven Rivers (6-4, 3-0 district) lost to North Florida Christian 24-26, 25-22 and 11-15, then 17-25, 16-25 to Lakeland and 22-25, 25-13 and 13-15 to Central. But the Warriors fought back by beating Boca Ciega 25-16, 16-25 and 15-5 en route to their Silver-division championship, in which they met Central for the second time.

Richard said the turning point came with the 25-11, 25-19, 25-23 Seven Rivers win over Hernando Christian on Friday night. Middle hitters Rachel Ebert and Lacey Lyons each posted five kills, and Kenzie Rowda had six assists.

"It was a big step up," Richard said. "Lacey Lyons turned a corner that game, hitting the ball very hard, connecting with quick-tempo sets in the middle, which changed the offense. That's what we were hoping for."

With senior Alice Zeiss as a setter and Carolyn Allen, Richard is looking for a stronger back row and may use a libero _ defensive specialist _ starting next week.

""They stick in the mud with their feet," Richard said. "They are not moving as fast as I want them to."

Richard moved up freshman Claire Roseburo, whom he calls a speed demon. She doesn't have height or a jump serve but is strong defensively.

"Our service game needs to improve," he said. "We need back-row defense. Talent-wise, we are more talented than last year, but we lack the grit we had last year from Amy Cortese, who provided a lot of that gritty leadership of do-or-die attitude."

The Warriors will have to prove what they have Thursday when they face St. John's, which eliminated Seven Rivers Christian last season in the elite eight during their quest for a state championship.

Lecanto (4-2, 3-1 district) is competing with freshmen Samantha McGowan, Annalise Sorvillo and Michi Arguedas on its varsity squad. Experienced seniors, right-side hitter Megan Vino and Tara Kotkowski, are leading the way, along with seniors Tiffany Wright and Nikki Pontius.

Citrus is 0-3 and had to reschedule four matches because of the recent weather.