Free of pain, Lecanto senior goes out in style.
By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 23, 2003
LECANTO -- Lecanto forward Amber Gidden always was effective.
But while she was earning all-area honors the previous two seasons, one couldn't help but wonder how dangerous Gidden could be if she actually were healthy.
This winter, we found out.
Competing without pain for the first time since her freshman season, the senior established herself as the area's top player. While leading the Panthers to the playoffs, she scored a school-record 43 goals and had 14 assists.
"She was the go-to person," Lecanto coach Kevin Towne said.
Gidden finished her career with 112 goals, also a Panthers record. Only one other county player, 2001 Citrus grad Amy Bowen (165), scored more goals.
"I wasn't really thinking about (scoring 100 goals), and I didn't realize how close I was," Gidden said. "But once coach told me how close I was to reaching it, I really wanted it."
The four-year starter and three-time All-Citrus/Hernando pick had 28 goals as a junior and 29 as a sophomore.
When Gidden arrived at Lecanto, the Panthers were a distant second behind area-power Citrus. But in her junior season, the Panthers won their first district title.
"Her best asset was that she can blend in very well," Citrus coach Ethan Eldridge said.
"Sometimes you don't know where she is until she has the ball, and then you really know. She's a deceptive player, and that's what you really need."
Gidden was a finesse player with above-average ball-handling and shooting ability.
"You have to be able to see your options and use all the field," Gidden said. "You've got to be able to move quickly from defense to offense."
At times, movement was a problem.
During her sophomore and junior seasons, Gidden's right knee was in constant pain. She often wore a brace.
"In the past, I couldn't help but thinking about (the knee) when I played," Gidden said. "It really slowed me down."
Gidden had arthroscopic surgery.
Her doctor found only minimal damage and prescribed rest. She followed the instructions and returned stronger, without pain, her senior season.
"It was nice to finally be able to play to my full potential and not worry about injurying my leg," Gidden said.
"This year was a lot better. I didn't have anything holding me back."
She also was more mature on the field.
"I've grown to be more comfortable," Gidden said. "I used to get the ball and freeze. I'd really feel the pressure."
Having two reliable teammates on the front line helped. Dani Sowell was the area's second-leading scorer, and forward Alicia Short was a solid ball-handler with strong passing skills.
"All of the pieces were in place," Gidden said. "We worked really well together. Everybody pitched in."
Gidden plans to play in college. She's looking at a few small programs.