New coach guides Land O’ Lakes to 15-3 record
By Kyle LoJacono
None of the current Land O’ Lakes High volleyball players were born the last time the Gators won a district title, but that is not stopping them from going for the title this year.
Land O’ Lakes (15-3) last took home a district crown in 1989 and they are getting guidance from first-year Gators coach Laurie Tyszko on how to end that 21-year streak.
“The farthest I’ve gotten was last year when we got to the district semifinals,” said senior setter and outside hitter Morgan Crescent. “Last year we did it mainly on skills our old coach taught us. Our new coach is showing us how to put those skills together and work as a team.”
The Gators finished 11-9 last year with Michelle Griffin as coach, but she was deployed with the U.S. Army.
“It was unexpected,” said senior libero Helen Marte. “We found out at the end of last year. We got a letter from her once and wrote back. We miss her a lot because she helped us get better, but our new coach is also great.”
Tyszko coached at Hudson High last year and was unsure about how things would go with the new squad. To combat any potential problems she has allowed the players to do their normal routines.
“I watched them during the summer and I saw a lot of talent,” Tyszko said. “I noticed we have a lot of good jump servers and we actually score a lot of points off our serves. I wanted them to be comfortable with what they do. I wasn’t looking to make huge changes.”
The biggest change to this point is playing a rotation with two setters. Tyszko decided to go with the different system to keep Crescent and setter and outside hitter Teresa Della Penna, a junior, on the floor as much as possible.
Crescent is second on the team with 153 kills, 60 aces, 161 assists and 141 digs through Land O’ Lakes’ first 18 matches. Della Penna leads the Gators with 151 kills, 188 assists and 82 aces. Della Penna also has 134 digs and 16 blocks.
“We work together well,” Della Penna said. “When I’m up front and having a good hitting day I’ll go for the kill and if I’m not, I’ll set someone else up. Working with Morgan is great and actually most of the girls have played together for years even in middle school.”
Learning the new rotation was also tough at first for senior middle hitter Nicole Woodard, but she and the rest of the players have picked it up quickly.
“It was really hard when we were first learning it,” Woodard said. “I’ve been playing with a lot of the players for a long time, so that made things easier. We basically still knew where the others were going to be.”
Woodard has a team-leading 95 blocks while adding 131 kills.
While Della Penna, Crescent and Woodard lead the way up front, Marte commands the backline for the Gators. She has team-high 201 digs to go with her 17 aces.
“Playing libero, sometimes there is a lot of pressure,” Marte said. “When the ball comes over everything is on you to get the ball. You learn to deal with that at the position. You can’t be nervous and go all out for the ball.”
While many of the team’s leaders are seniors and juniors, one freshman has started to make a larger impact.
“It was kind of intimidating starting off,” said freshman outside hitter Daniella Smith. “I just didn’t want to mess things up. The more I’ve gotten in, the more comfortable I’ve felt.”
Tyszko said when she started she just wanted the team to have a winning record, which they have already clinched. Now she is hoping for that elusive district title, a couple wins in the regional tournament and who knows after that.
“We have the talent to get to the state tournament,” Tyszko said. “Hopefully things will come together for us the next few weeks.”
-All stats as recorded to Maxpreps.com by coaches as of Oct. 18.