BROOKSVILLE - For the second night in a row, Hernando High appeared headed for a frustrating loss against a county foe.
Just as they did Tuesday night at Weeki Wachee, the host Lady Leopards captured the first game against Springstead Wednesday, only to drop the next two.
But instead of continuing to fade in the fourth, as they did versus the Lady Hornets, Hernando fought back to snag a victory in five games, 26-24, 16-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-12.
"Last night was hard," Hernando head coach Robin Bailey said. "Felt like we should have won last night. Tonight was great. The girls came together. They played hard, and it feels great.
"Last night they didn't talk. They got frustrated with each other. Tonight they came together. They worked on it, stayed light, communicated; tried to have fun."
It didn't look good early, when the Lady Eagles (3-3) ran out to an 11-6 lead in the first game, forcing Bailey to use a timeout.
The Lady Leopards (4-2) responded with an 11-5 run, going ahead 17-16 on a kill by Kirsten Walker.
Springstead eventually went in front 24-23 but couldn't finish off the game. Ali Bronson tied it on a kill and Hernando served the next two points to seal matters.
Bryanna Leonard served seven unanswered points, including three aces, to start off the second game for the Lady Eagles.
They cruised to win in that game, then notched the final four points of the third, the last two on kills by Celeste Veenstra, to take a 2-1 advantage in the match.
Hernando grabbed control in the middle of the fourth set. Rebecca Laing and Haley Jensen served five points apiece to make it 20-13.
Bronson paved the way in the fifth game with five of her match-high 20 kills. The freshman added her fourth ace of the night to give the Lady Leopards an 8-5 lead.
Springstead rallied back to knot it at 11 on an ace by Leonard before Hernando finally pulled away, closing out the contest on an ace served by Jensen.
"I did all right but I definitely made a few errors, and I think as a team we played great," Bronson said. "We had a nice talk with coach. She said we have to push because we had a record of not pushing too hard. We just decided that we want to win this and we need to push as hard as we can.
"I think I'm adjusting (to high school play) good. I love the girls, they're great. I've known them for a while because I've had brothers go through the school system, and I love the coach. I think I really fit good here."
Bailey felt that her young middle hitter had a breakthrough-type performance.
"She's a freshman," Bailey said. "She's coming in with a focus. She knows how to control the game.
"I think what's different is before she felt like the young one and really wasn't sure to overstep. And now she even said today, 'I'm younger than these girls, what do I do?' I said, 'You know how to play, play.'"
Hernando played without one of its top veterans, senior outside hitter Tana McDaniel, who also sat out against Weeki Wachee due to injury. Bailey said McDaniel hurt her arm from overuse, though she should be fine.
Veenstra paced the Lady Eagles with 14 kills and Paige Krause had eight. Leonard tallied 34 assists and five aces.
Springstead, the defending county champion, started off the season 3-0, only to lose three in a row, falling to Mitchell last week and Seminole-Osceola on Monday.
"I think in reference to our past two (matches), we took a step in the right direction. We definitely got our step back," Springstead head coach Noemi Rivera said. "Am I excited or happy that it didn't go our way? No. Do I think we showed up in spurts? Yes. And I'm confident that we'll be good from here on out.
"I believe we started talking less (in the final two games). But everybody wanted it. We had a team meeting and our whole thing is about wanting it. If you want it bad enough things will go your way.
"At times we let up and maybe got a little bit intimidated. But other than that I think for a good part we beat ourselves doing silly stuff. But not to take anything away from (the Lady Leopards). They played a great game and they have some great players."
Hernando 3, Springstead 2
1 2 3 4 5
SPG 24 25 25 19 12
HER 26 16 23 25 15
Records - Springstead (3-3), Hernando (4-2).