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Hernando coach steps down

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 7, 2002

BROOKSVILLE -- Rick Ahrens, the only coach in the history of the Hernando girls soccer program, stepped down after nine seasons.

Ahrens, 43, was among 15 teachers in Florida named to a Department of Education Agri-Science Leadership Committee, which seeks ways to build up state agriculture programs. He said his new responsibilities, along with his teaching commitments, leave little time for coaching.

"Twenty years, and I figured I'd coached around 600-700 high school games, whether it be soccer, volleyball, softball, whatever I coached," Ahrens said. "It was just time."

It was a difficult decision. Soccer has been in Ahrens' blood since age 5, when he played in upstate New York. He has been involved in the sport as a player or coach since, even working in logistics at the World Cup and Olympic tournaments .

"I was born in the wrong country," Ahrens said. "Soccer, to me, is not, "I'm going to coach it and that's it.' It's everything. I love the game. Even now, I'm up half the night watching soccer matches."

Ahrens coached at Hernando for 11 seasons, including four in the boys program. He guided the boys and girls simultaneously for two years.

"From what I've seen, Coach Ahrens is a solid coach," athletic director Matt Smith said. "He just felt at this point it was time to take a little break."

Ahrens started with a team of inexperienced players in 1993 and led it to a 19-4 record two years later. In the early 1990s, he coached a goalkeeper, Aliza Loveday, whose national record for saves (395) in a season still stands.

But one of Ahrens' proudest moments was when Kristi Mule, a player on his first team, returned as a volunteer coach. "It was like a kid coming back to take over a parents' job," Ahrens said.

This past season, 18 of the 20 letterwinners on the varsity squad made the conference all-academic team.

To stay connected to soccer, Ahrens offered to put on coaches clinics for the Brooksville United Soccer Association. He is considering coaching his seven-year-old daughter, Delaney's, youth team. He won't rule out a return to prep coaching. "One thing I learned long ago is, you never say never," Ahrens said.

NOTE: Tino Vasquez's year-to-year contract as boys soccer coach was not renewed. Smith hopes to fill the opening by the beginning of August.

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