The unusual circumstance under which Central High began its volleyball season has finally been resolved.
Late last week, with the season already underway, the school was able to officially announce Sara Hampshire as its newest head coach.
The hiring of the 2007 Hudson High grad had been pending clearance from the county office, forcing athletic director Al Sorrentino to technically serve as headman in the Aug. 26 season-opener at Weeki Wachee.
Hampshire took over for the second match two days later against Pasco.
“I’m pretty excited,” Hampshire said. “I was an assistant at Hudson and then Fivay. Just being able to be a head coach and take over a program is kind of exciting. We have a good group of girls. I’m expecting big things toward the end of the season.”
During her prep career with the Lady Cobras, Hampshire was a pivotal cog for one the finest programs on the North Suncoast, standing out despite playing the defensive position of libero. She set a school record with 348 career digs, and earned a scholarship to what was then Pasco-Hernando Community College.
After re-aggravating a preexisting ankle injury that required surgery, Hampshire’s playing days came to a close and she moved on to the coaching ranks.
For the past six years, she has coached either at the club or prep level. She spent a year as an assistant back at Hudson, then followed her former coach with the Lady Cobras, Linda McQuade, to Fivay, where she has worked the past three seasons.
“Working with Coach McQuade was awesome,” Hampshire said. “She taught me a lot about how to relate to the girls and paying attention to how they relate to you. The major thing with her is defense is everything, and that’s what I’ve come to learn, too.
“The big thing is being a leader. Showing kids what it takes on and off the court to just be successful.”
Hampshire’s arrival marks the seventh coaching change for the Lady Bears since 2009. The team went 6-17 under first-year head coach Andrea Kneser in 2013.
Kneser was also a teacher at the school, but was commuting from Sarasota, leading her to step down. She is now head coach at Sarasota-Booker.
Several potential replacements fell through during the summer, Sorrentino said. Hampshire, who works in health care with Applicant Insight, was someone who had been on Central’s radar in previous years.
“She’s worked for several years with Coach McQuade. She’s been around some pretty high-quality coaching,” Sorrentino said. “We just didn’t pull somebody off the street. She’s pretty good. We’re fortunate to have her.”
Now the challenge becomes getting the Lady Bears turned in the right direction on the fly.
“We definitely have athletes here and people who want to work hard. That’s what it takes to come out on top,” Hampshire said. “It’s definitely an uphill battle but we’re getting through it.”
Hampshire added of her goals this year, “To come together as a team and the girls to learn as much as possible. Obviously you’d love to win, but this is a steppingstone. We’re looking for more of a long-term program here.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do. Being an assistant for so long with Coach McQuade, it’s always something I wanted, to have my own program. I have the opportunity here, so I’m going to go with it as long as I can.”
By the numbers: Central volleyball (2009-13)
Year Record Head coach
2009 13-9* Emily Gore
2010 9-14 Anthony DiSciascio
2011 6-17 Anthony DiSciascio
2012 9-13 Alyson Wagoner (1-3)/Anthony DiSciascio (8-10)
2013 6-17 Andrea Kneser
* Denotes district runner-up