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Spongers outlast Cougars

CLASS 2A GIRLS: Tarpon Springs moves on with Jessica Lukas' winner in penalty-kick round.

By BOB PUTNAM, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 22, 2003

NAPLES -- In the days leading up to the region final, Tarpon Springs coach John Freiermuth decided not to have any grueling practices.

That wasn't what Alexia Berg wanted to hear.

"I was hoping we would go a little harder and I could work on my penalty kicks," Berg said. "I just had a feeling tonight's game would come down to that sort of situation."

The junior keeper's prediction came true. Against Naples Barron Collier, the Spongers played four five-minute overtimes and went through two rounds of penalty kicks.

But even without much practice, Berg was perfect. She had two saves in penalty kicks, the last setting up freshman Jessica Lukas' winning shot to give Tarpon Springs a 1-0 victory.

The Spongers advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 1982. They will play Thursday in Tampa.

This was the third consecutive season the Cougars (26-3) had their season end by a Pinellas County school.

"It just was an awesome, awesome performance by everyone," said Freiermuth, who took over the girls program this season after coaching the boys. "But Berg really came through. She's had big games before, but this was the biggest."

Berg helped Tarpon Springs last through the overtimes with key saves. Twice, she dove to her left and reached out with one hand to block potential goals.

But the biggest save came on a shot by Barron Collier's top scorer, Lindsay Giblin, who had 65 goals this season. Giblin broke away and hit a high floater that Berg knocked away as time expired in regulation.

"She understands the game and reads other players real well," Freiermuth said of Berg.

Both teams each made four shots in the first round of penalty kicks. Berg stopped the Cougars' first shot in the second round and Lukas followed with the winner.

"I was really nervous," Lukas said. "I had a lot of pressure on me, and I was hoping I could get it done. I just leaned to the outside and kicked to the corner. Thankfully, it went in."

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