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Road gets bumpier at districts

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 27, 2002

William Shakespeare never directly addressed playoff soccer in his works, but centuries later, one line rings true for coaches preparing for this week's district tournaments: "What's past is prologue."

"Everything starts from scratch," said Springstead coach Sal Calabrese. "It doesn't make a difference if you're the first seed or not. You have to win, or there is no tomorrow."

All the wins and losses of the past two months serve only to decide which teams stand between the county's elite programs and the regional playoffs.

Land O'Lakes, the lone county team to earn a first-round bye, needs only one win to secure a playoff berth, but that doesn't have coach Mark Pearson breathing any easier.

"Everything is tough in districts," said Pearson, whose Gators entered last year's tournament with just four losses but were upset by third-seeded Countryside. "There's never an easy game. The thing with district tournaments is you can have the best record, but if you slip up and lose, it's over. It does add to the excitement of the tournament, though."

With five of seven teams finishing with winning district records, the Class 2A District 8 tournament seems a safe bet for excitement. The Gators have the advantage of a bye, but Sam Koleduk, coach of second-seeded Gulf, likes his spot even better.

"I think the No. 2 seed is better than the No. 1," said Koleduk, whose team will open Monday against a Wesley Chapel team that went 0-11-1 in district play. "We don't have to worry about Hudson, River Ridge or Land O'Lakes until we've locked up a playoff berth."

Should higher seeds prevail, Gulf would meet Zephyrhills in the semifinals, allowing the two to settle the rivalry after splitting their regular-season meetings.

Ridgewood and Mitchell are in another district, and on Monday night, they'll be in another area of the state, playing each other at Leesburg. The two schools had sought to move the opening-round game to Port Richey, hoping to avoid the 90-mile one-way trip.

While they had offered to give Leesburg all revenues generated from the game, the schools were told by Leesburg officials Friday they would have to make the trip.

One of the two teams will get to drive back to Leesburg on Wednesday to face top-seeded Springstead with a playoff berth on the line. Ridgewood upset the Eagles two weeks ago, one of only two losses for Springstead.

"We've been giving our opponents a run for their money," said Ridgewood coach Ed McComiskey, whose team bounced back to win three straight after losing its first four after the holiday break. "We've been up for the big games and struggled against teams we could have beaten, so if we can just be consistent, we'll be fine."

They'd better hurry. After this week, for most teams, what's passed is their seasons.

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