Eagles went back to winning formula
By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
SPRING HILL -- Sal Calabrese knew the lull would come.
Even after his Springstead team began the season 12-0-1, the coach knew better than to assume it wouldn't rest until it blazed through district, regional and state playoffs and hoisted a state championship plaque.
Reality arrived in the form of Palm Harbor University and a 4-1 loss in the Ridgewood Tournament.
The Eagles forgot about the miserly ball-possession style that produced their unbeaten start and continued to wobble, losing to Ridgewood 2-1 on Jan. 15.
"I definitely worried about it. I knew it would happen," Calabrese said. "Palm Harbor put a slap into us, but we regrouped."
The Eagles did so by tying Central 2-2 for the second time this season, then beating Citrus 4-2 on Tuesday, playing "a solid 70 or 80 minutes," Calabrese said.
Now, Calabrese hopes, the Eagles are ready to make the run at a district title that seemed like a foregone conclusion in November. They enter the Class 3A-7 tournament at Leesburg, which begins Monday, as the top seed with a 5-1-2 district record.
"Playing Palm Harbor, we learned a lot of what we need to do," Calabrese said. "Possess the ball more, knock it around more and have patience.
"Concentrating on that more got us 12 wins at the beginning of the year," he said.
It also helped Springstead earn a first-round bye. On Wednesday at 8 p.m., the Eagles will face the winner of the game between No. 4 Mitchell (2-5-1) and No. 5 Ridgewood (1-5-2).
"The good thing about the bye is it gives us a rest -- maybe get over a minor injury or a cold," Calabrese said. "We can work on Mitchell one day and Ridgewood the next and then concentrate on the one we're playing."
Springstead has played well defensively even in defeat. Goaltender Dan Calabrese boasts a 0.83 goals-against average, helped by the backline play from Peter Golembiewski, Kyle Munson, Mike Sullivan and Steve Brand.
The Eagles don't feature any prolific scorers, but midfielder Greg Emmerman and forwards Jordan Magrini and Ian Haselbarth each have nine goals.
Second-seeded Central (5-1-2) brings a bigger gun in midfielder Sean O'Sullivan, a 29-goal performer who scored at least once in all but three games.
Unfortunately for the Bears, one of those was in a 2-1 loss to third-seeded Leesburg that gave Springstead the top seed on a tie-breaker.
Central responded to the Dec. 7 defeat with a 6-1 thrashing of the Yellow Jackets on Jan. 15, and Bears coach John Andruss is hopeful his squad won't take Leesburg lightly again.
"We didn't play that well the first game," Andruss said. "They kind of expected Leesburg would be an easy game, and they are definitely not. They're definitely capable of beating you.
"I would hope they get it. This time of year, if you don't get it, the season's over."
Hernando (1-14-1) -- seeded fifth in Class 2A, District 7 -- isn't likely to take anyone lightly.
Coach Tino Vazquez would like to think, however, that the Leopards have momentum after earning their only win and tie of the season in the final days of the campaign -- both against Dunnellon.
"After that win and that tie, there's been such a difference," Vazquez said. "You could just see the difference in the team. We've been more intense."
Sophomore Jagren Castillo leads Hernando with five goals.
-- Staff writer Brant James can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 1407. Send e-mail to email@example.com.
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