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Tarpon Springs savors a season to remember

The Spongers have played through ups, downs and blank spots to get this far.

Published February 20, 2004

TARPON SPRINGS - There are moments some would like to forget - a bad shot, blown coverage, a loss.

Some of the Spongers have moments they couldn't remember if they tried.

Kaitlyn Dassat, Jessica Lukas, Rebecca Smith and Giana Kase all suffered concussions late in the season. They've all been cleared to play in today's Class 4A state semifinal against Tallahassee Leon in Fort Lauderdale.

"All four girls have lost an hour or two of their lives," Tarpon Springs coach John Freiermuth said. "At this point, everybody's taken a step back and started to think about it."

Dassat missed two weeks. Smith was rushed to the hospital during the region quarterfinal against Springstead and Lukas was taken to the hospital shortly after the game ended. Just last week, in practice Kase played the ball in the wrong spot on her head and went down only to wake up not remembering where she was.

All four were heading the ball in practice this week and Freiermuth said they'll play.

"It's scary," senior goalkeeper Alexia Berg said. "You're not thinking the team's in trouble. You're thinking "I really hope they're okay."'

None of the Spongers (18-3) have forgotten what it was like to play in the state semifinals last year. Or what it felt like to lose.

"It was a feeling I never want to go through again," senior Libby Gianeskis said. "I know all of us laid our hearts on the field that day.

"We were just really disappointed last year and we wanted to come back and prove that it wasn't just a chance that we got there, that we could do it again."

It has been their goal to return since the end of last season. The Spongers were looking so far ahead, at times, they forgot they had to play the games to get here.

The teams suffered a pair of eight-goal losses during a Thanksgiving tournament, but more than half the varsity was vacationing. Much of the team had blocked out its last loss when the Spongers lost a 1-0 lead, giving up four goals to Palm Harbor U.

"They fell apart," Freiermuth said. "I think it showed them they are not invincible and they have to focus and be ready for strong teams."

The team started to question its commitment and drive. The Spongers asked themselves if all the talk about going back to the state final four was just that; talk.

Tarpon rebounded and got its confidence back, breezing through a weak district. Seniors Paige Beyer and Ashley Jeffris have been a strong duo up front and both have 20 goals. And Gianeskis has been the Spongers' force in the middle. The team hasn't lost since the PHU game in December.

"That was probably the hardest part of the season," Gianeskis said. "There were a lot of struggles. "

Tarpon faces a Leon (20-4-3) team playing in its first semifinal. The Lions have three players in double-digit scoring and defeated their district champion, Chiles, 1-0 in the region final. Freiermuth said he expects them to be a fast and determined team.

The game the Spongers have had on their minds all season was its state semifinal overtime loss to Riviera Beach Suncoast (25-0) last season. Freiermuth said they've talked about it at every practice, every game.

"Maybe it's destiny at this point," Freiermuth said. "Maybe it's destiny that we're here."

[Last modified February 20, 2004, 01:31:57]


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