Presnick picks UF
By KRISTEN LEIGH PORTER
Citrus' Amber Presnick is moving on.
But Presnick's legend will continue, even though another school will benefit from her presence on the soccer field.
The three-time All-Citrus/Hernando Player of the Year has verbally committed to play for the University of Florida, where she plans to enroll this winter.
The senior will leave Citrus as "one of the top two or three" female athletes in the school's history, said longtime activities director Vicki Overman.
Besides Presnick's soccer prowess, she was a standout in cross country, track and softball. In her only season of prep volleyball, Presnick was a starter.
Brady Bogart, who was Presnick's soccer coach at Citrus, knew he had a special player. He heard about her long before her freshman year.
"She's just one of those extraordinary athletes who could excel at anything, including ping pong," Bogart said.
"Her ball-handling skills were just phenomenal," he said. "She could make a lot of boys teams around here look good."
In college, Presnick will be playing with or against equally talented athletes. She picked one of the nation's best soccer programs. Last year, Florida (21-4-1) reached the NCAA semifinals and claimed the Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament championships. Becky Burleigh was named the 1998 national coach of the year after leading the Gators to the NCAA title.
Presnick said she chose nearby Florida over Florida State and Vanderbilt.
"They're a very good team, and I have a lot of friends there and it's close to home," said Presnick, whose brother, Cory, is on the Florida cross country and track squads. Presnick had gotten to know her UF soccer teammates on a few unofficial visits to the Gainesville campus, and planned on making her first official visit over the weekend. It would be Presnick's first opportunity to watch her new squad. The Gators, who had been ranked 13th in the NSCAA preseason poll, were to play Connecticut on Friday and Nebraska today.
Presnick, though nursing some injuries, may have wished she was out there with them.
"I'm hurt right now, so I'm taking it easy a bit," she said.
"I'm playing on a club team in Tampa (Hillsborough United) to keep my game going, but both my quads are strained so it's kind of hard to play soccer when your muscles hurt."
Presnick said she will be playing outside defense or outside midfield for UF. She was a center midfielder for Citrus, recording 23 goals and 16 assists last season.
In her final game with the Hurricanes, Presnick was moved to forward to give Bogart's injury-plagued club more of a scoring threat.
Presnick often was double or triple-teamed, which is what led Lecanto past Citrus in their district showdown.
Having watched Presnick throughout her career, Panthers coach Kevin Towne saw the athlete's ability to play offense and defense. "We're kind of disappointed to see her go," Towne said. "She brought a lot to the table, and she really helped Citrus out. "But I congratulate her for having that opportunity to go to UF," he said. "She's definitely a Division I player."
Friends and fans will be able to follow Presnick in college. Florida games are broadcast on the Sunshine Network and at www.GatorZone.com. Bogart said spectators who don't even know Presnick have kept tabs on her career. "People came from Marion County just to see Amber, that had no granddaughter or daughter on the Forest team," he said.
"I told Amber that, and I think it made her feel good. She needs to realize that people do look up to her. Little kids will, and her teammates here did."
Overman said Presnick led by example. "She's kind of quiet and just goes about her business, but is certainly someone for the younger kids to emulate," Overman said. Presnick opted not to play sports this fall.
With her time at Citrus drawing to a close, the next few months mean a lot.
Because the honor roll student will be graduating at semester, Presnick is unsure when she can sign a letter of intent and make her decision official.
The initial soccer signing date for 2003-2004 eligibility is Feb. 5.
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