© St. Petersburg Times, published September 11, 2002
BROOKSVILLE -- After graduation robbed Hernando of most of its height, coach Dena Frye predicted the Leopards would not be a big-hitting team this season.
Senior outside hitter Cristi Brown isn't buying it.
"I think we're a pretty good hitting team," Brown said after Hernando's 15-6, 15-3 victory against visiting Springstead on Tuesday. "Even though we might not have as good of hitters as we had last year, I think we're really better than we expected to be."
Hernando's tallest players are 5-foot-8 middle hitters Whitney Griffin and Beth Gavish, undersized by volleyball standards. What the Leopards lack in height, Brown says, they make up in positioning and jumping ability.
"(Setter) Kristi Langworthy, she can jump higher than anybody on the team," Brown said. "Even though she's short (5-2), she can get up there."
Hernando did not have many opportunities to hit against younger Springstead, but Brown and Co. made the most of the ones they had. Katie Werner had four kills, Gavish and Kara Bailey three, Langworthy two and Brown one.
Most were set up by Langworthy, who led the Leopards with 12 assists.
Bailey, a 5-7 junior middle hitter, could be the key to Hernando's hitting game. A basketball player who participated in AAU volleyball last summer, she is playing on the varsity level for the first time this season.
"She's going to make it or break it this year," Frye said. "It will come to her and Cristi Brown and Karen (Ferrigno), our other left front."
Though it hit well, Hernando's most dangerous weapon on Tuesday was its serve.
Reserve Lauren Orendorf had eight service points in the second game, including five aces, as the Leopards jumped out to a 9-0 lead. Brown served for three of her five points in the first game, when Hernando used a 13-0 run to take control.
"We have a lot to work on," Frye said. "Our passing is not up to par yet, and therefore your setting's not there and your hitting's not good. I think Kristi Langworthy's doing a great job with setting. Our serving's great, but it all comes down to passing."
Frye said her team will have to compensate for its lack of height with strong defensive play.
"We're more of a defensive team," she said. "They're constantly diving on the floor, digging up balls and just hoping that the other team makes mistakes."
Don't tell Brown.