SPRING HILL- It's been awhile since coaching from bench for Springstead volleyball coach Kyra Leonard, who used to coach the Eagles over 10 years ago and has now returned for another stint.
This time around, however, Leonard inherits a very talented squad and her club is off to one of the hottest starts of anyone in the area. The Eagles are off to an 8-1 start through nine contests and despite not having played the meat of their schedule, Springstead has been impressive nonetheless.
Springstead finished 2016 at 12-12 and is already four wins away from matching that total. Leonard stated that she feels her team is committed to winning and the players, coaches will do everything they can to achieve victories.
"I feel that we're a team that's committed to winning," Springstead coach Kyra Leonard said. "I feel the girls and the coaches are going to do everything they can."
Springstead has rattled off eight wins through its first nine games and the Eagles are vying to compete for a district championship and must get through Pasco County powers Land O' Lakes and Mitchell.
"It's so early in the season and we haven't seen our district opponents yet this season," Leonard said. "The girls have gelled together very well from what we've done so far. We haven't seen our toughest competition yet, though. I feel like skill level wise through some of the stats we see on MaxPreps, we matchup pretty well with those teams."
Like many prep athletic teams throughout the Tampa Bay Area, Springstead's volleyball team had to adhere and take time off due to Hurricane Irma and the loss of practice time contributed to a lack of fluidity when they returned. Leonard said that some girls on the team did workouts on their own while Irma passed through central Florida.
"It was tough because we had the time off and then we had games on Tuesday and Wednesday," Leonard said. "We used Monday as a practice more than a game. We had to get girls back into their stamina and rotations. A lot of them kept up with their workouts outside of school and that was very helpful."
A couple of Springstead's top players have contributed heavily to the Eagles' winning ways, as outside hitter Alexis Thompson and outside/middle hitter Jennifer Aten have been the mainstays for Leonard. Thompson, who has 44 kills, is the more vocal player of the two, as Leonard points out the senior is never shy to communicate with her fellow teammates. Aten has been almost equally as impressive, with the junior posting 36 kills and has paired up with Thompson to create a formidable duo.
"With Lexi (Alexis Thompson) being in the middle, she's a big part of the offense and Jen (Jennifer Aten) can hit the ball from wherever," Leonard added. "They're both big parts of our offense and they have great attitudes. They're two of our top cheerleaders and they keep all of our spirits high. Lexy is a little bit more out spoken than Jen is. She has little mini goals throughout the game and that helps the girls. It helps the girls out a ton."
Follow Andy Villamarzo on Twitter @avillamarzo.