Jensen trying to solve a case of Jekyll, Hyde
By GREG AUMAN
© St. Petersburg Times,
Central coach Jim Jensen saw both ends of the spectrum in a 24-hour period last week.
On Friday, his Bears beat bigger schools in a tournament at Hillsborough Community College, sweeping Class 5A Hillsborough and winning a three-game match against Class 6A Riverview.
"That was the best I've ever had a team at Central play," said Jensen, in his fifth season with the program. "We were fired up. The bench was crazy. We were doing everything right."
A day later, Central was swept by St. Petersburg Northeast and didn't find its focus until it was too late, losing a 6-15, 17-6, 15-12 decision to River Ridge.
"That might be the worst we've ever played," Jensen said. "My JV team would have been better off playing. That's how bad it was. We just looked bad. Embarrassing. All I can ask for is a full effort, and on Saturday we weren't there to win a tournament."
Jensen said a few distractions could have factored in the lack of intensity Saturday. Central had a home football game and sock hop Friday night, so his players were up later than usual -- especially when playing five matches in three days.
The next week offers a ripe opportunity for redemption, with key matches against Land O'Lakes, Lecanto and Hernando. The Bears (4-4) went 0-4 against the Panthers and Leopards last season before stunning Lecanto in the district semifinal.
Thursday is the teams' first meeting since that upset. If the Bears can play with the focus they've shown themselves capable of in the past week, Jensen has no doubts about what they can do.
"If we have the effort we had Friday night, I like our chances against anyone. Anyone," he said. "It was scary how good we looked."
ANOTHER TOURNEY: Hernando (6-3) had a tough tournament last week, winning three of five matches against high-caliber competition from the Gainesville area.
The Leopards beat Trenton twice and earned a win over Alachua Santa Fe, which knocked them out of the playoffs in the first round two years ago. Hernando finished third in the tourney, losing matches to Gainesville Eastside (which knocked it out of the playoffs last year) and Dixie County.
The Leopards play three games in three nights this week, traveling to Crystal River tonight, returning home for Pasco on Wednesday and going to Citrus on Thursday.
One positive from the weekend was the healthy return of senior outside hitter Ellen Widboom, who had been limited by a painful injury to her side in the first two weeks of the season.
"She was back to being Ellen," coach Dena Frye said. "She played well, and it was good to see her back out on the court. Hopefully that's a big answer for us."
One of Hernando's closest rivalries in recent years has been Lecanto. The two have split regular-season matches the past two seasons, with both teams winning on the road each year. That made last week's 15-12, 13-15, 16-14 victory for Hernando extra special on its home court.
The Panthers led 14-12 in the final game and had a match point, but senior Jill Bandhauer attempted a difficult jump serve, which landed out, giving Hernando a chance.
"When Chrissy (Hartley) was here, she had a jump serve she'd want to try, but I only let her do it when we were up by a bunch," Frye said. "But Jill had gotten a couple of aces off us, too."
After the sideout, Cristi Brown served out the final four points to give the Leopards a hard-fought three-game victory.
"She has really come around," Frye said. "I'm very pleased with her serving. We're not a powerful team, but our serving, so far, has been what's helped us stay in games and helped us win some as well."
Hernando plays host to Central on Monday, having beaten the Bears three times last season. The teams will square off again at Central in the season finale Oct. 18.
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