LAND O' LAKES - In volleyball, the libero can perform only in the backcourt and is not permitted to block a shot. Unlike other substitutions, no whistles are blown and no referee action is required when the libero enters or leaves the game. The libero cannot be designated as one of the six starting players on the lineup. As a result, the libero is rarely a team leader or captain.
This past season, one of the three Gators captains was senior libero Kristina Moehle. Coach Michelle Griffin said the two-time all-conference player was chosen to be captain because of her leadership.
"Kristina was the one who took charge on the floor and was constantly encouraging her teammates to step it up," said Griffin. Moehle helped lead the Gators to a 27-7 regular season record.
The coaches also chose Moehle as the team's most improved player.
"She has improved every year since joining the varsity as a freshman. This past year, however, Kristina has had noticeably more passion and more desire," Griffin said. "I can't count the number of times she scraped her knee diving for a ball or ran out of bounds to get the ball back in play."
In addition to her varsity teammates, Moehle has had a positive effect on junior varsity players. Freshman Morgan Crescent remembers the transition to high school.
"It can be overwhelming. Fortunately, Kristina was there for me" Crescent said. "She always had something positive to say to keep me going. All the JV players look up to her as a role model."
English teacher Mike Maynard says Moehle's work ethic also is evident in the classroom.
"Kristina is one of my best students. She's intelligent, works hard and never quits," Maynard said. "If she received a bad grade, she would ask what she could do to get a better grade next time. She would then make it better."
Moehle has a weighted GPA of 4.25, which ranks her fifth in a class of 500. She has been on the honor roll since her freshman year. She has taken Advanced Placement courses in English and has taken honors math and science courses.
When asked about her many athletic and academic achievements, Moehle shrugs and says, "I really don't think much about the awards. I just try to do my best."
For the past four summers, Moehle has volunteered in the Council for Exceptional Students, helping with the Special Olympics. This year, she was named president.
"At the end of the day, the Special Olympic athletes receive a ribbon, and they are so happy just to be able to participate," she said. "I'm proud to be associated with such a worthy cause."
Next year, Moehle plans to attend the University of Central Florida, majoring in marketing and advertising. Volleyball will not be in the picture, but there are no regrets.
"Education is a higher priority, because I will have it forever," she said. "In sports, you can have a career-ending injury, but you'll always have your mind."