© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002
BROOKSVILLE -- Central coach Jim Jensen used to emphasize serving in practice, but it only made things worse for his team.
Now that he has backed off, the serve has become one of the Bears' most dangerous weapons.
Thalia Tatham, Heather Edwards and Kay Furman combined for nine of Central's 12 aces Thursday as the Bears opened the season with a 15-1, 15-6 victory over visiting Springstead.
"I don't over-emphasize serving," Jensen said. "In the past, I have. Now, I just kind of shut my mouth and say, "Go serve. Have fun."'
Jensen does require each of his players to serve and encourages them to jump serve in practice if they feel comfortable with it.
Tatham toyed with a jump serve last season, but most of her team-leading 46 aces came with her feet on the ground. After getting the go-ahead from Jensen, she went exclusively to the jump serve Thursday.
"She's serious about it now, and I have all the confidence in the world that she can do it and be very effective with it," Jensen said.
With so many aces, Central had little time to work on a new offensive system designed to add motion at the net and disguise the Bears' intentions from opposing defenses.
"I knew it'd be kind of sluggish down there, and it was," Jensen said. "The timing wasn't perfect, because it was the first time we were actually running that during a game situation."
Springstead had its own adjustments to make, trying to switch from a 5-1 or 3-1-2 rotation to a 6-2.
The Eagles' uncertainty was apparent as they twice served out of rotation, costing them two points in the second game.
"It's a very simple rotation, but it takes a lot of practice and we haven't had a lot of time to really practice it," coach Steve Davey said.
"That was part of the downfall, because there was so much confusion. The girls were not comfortable for their position."
Springstead isn't experienced, either. Unlike Central, which started six seniors, the Eagles have no seniors and just five returning varsity players.
"What I'm looking for is for them to find their niche, develop their talent and to learn the rotation," Davey said.
"It's not my intent for us to stay in a defeated position for the season."