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Weather makes anxious Central wait for rematch

Central couldn't wait to get its hands on Class 4A, District 9 rival Leesburg on Monday night, especially after such a miserable outing against the Yellow Jackets on Sept. 14.

The Bears' redemption will have to wait, though, since yet another match has been canceled due to a hurricane (this time, it was Jeanne).

It's the third match the Bears have had to reschedule for later dates, but it's the one match they want to play as soon as they can make time for it.

Leesburg defeated Central in their first meeting, but the Bears are certain this time will be different. Perhaps the biggest difference will be that Central (9-4) has all of its starters back in the lineup.

Junior setter Noemi Rivera has been battling a chronic sore foot, and top players Erica Livengood and Nikki Weaver sprained their ankles just before the Leesburg match. Junior Whitney Gilbert also is recovering from a sprained ankle.

The Bears are looking forward to playing Leesburg in their own gym. The Yellow Jackets' court has poor lighting and no air conditioning, which made for an incredibly long night when Central visited Leesburg.

"Leesburg is very good this year," Bears coach Vicki Weaver said. "But even when they're not a good team, it's hard to win over there."

Weaver said Central's rotation was "all messed up" when it faced the Jackets. Nikki Weaver and Livengood played a total of 3 minutes each, and the rest of the Bears struggled to fill in the gaps.

Leesburg can expect to see a different Central team the next time the two play, which Vicki Weaver hopes is soon. The Bears are coming off a big win over Hernando (29-19, 25-18, 20-25, 25-23), in which Nikki Weaver had 15 kills. Livengood and Lisa Butler each recorded 10, and Sara Tooman had four solo blocks.

Central has rescheduled its canceled Crystal River match (a district contest) for Monday, and the Bears are trying to figure out when they can squeeze Leesburg

and Nature Coast in before playoffs next month.

HOT SHOT: Some teams that have Nature Coast Tech on their schedules have been going to Sharks matches to check out junior outside hitter Iliana Santos. The native of Puerto Rico has been creating a buzz with her sophisticated level of play and powerful kills, which have been a huge boon for the second-year Sharks, who finished 3-21 last season. They are trailing in their district, but Santos has made them a more high-profile team.

MATCH OF THE WEEK: In Class 3A, District 6, South Sumter is one of the toughest squads Hernando (8-1) may face, especially with Pasco rebuilding. Tonight, the Leopards will host the Raiders in their quest to remain tops in district.

_ EMILY NIPPS, Times staff writer

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