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County teams reflect on year with optimism

Published February 1, 2006

ZEPHYRHILLS - The region quarterfinals were not kind to the county's qualifiers as Gulf, River Ridge, Land O'Lakes and Zephyrhills lasted one round.

In Class 5A, Land O'Lakes lost 2-0 to Bloomingdale and River Ridge, hosting a game after winning the school's second district title, lost 5-0 to Newsome.

Gulf lost a 4A match 2-0 to perennial power Orlando Bishop Moore, which has 13 consecutive state appearances and four titles.

Unlike the others, Zephyrhills scored. But it blew two one-goal leads in a 3-2 loss to St. Cloud in 4A.

The Bulldogs led 1-0 after team scoring leader Kristen Vollmer converted a penalty kick. After St. Cloud tied it, Laurren McLeod finished off a through ball from Brittney Hough, who blocked a clearing attempt.

Zephyrhills coach Janet Heyman was encouraged by how her players took the defeat.

"It was rewarding to hear them after the game saying, "This is what I'm going to do this summer to improve,"' Heyman said. "That's something I haven't had in a while, that dedication."

Perhaps it is because Heyman had a roster of mostly club players for the first time. That, Heyman said, keyed a run to her third district title and sixth playoff appearance in eight seasons with the Bulldogs.

Having a high-scoring foursome didn't hurt either. Heyman said the team has relied primarily on one, sometimes two, top scorers per team in the past.

Vollmer paced the offense with 42 goals and 98 points. She was followed by McLeod (20, 85), Deja Dukes (16,44) and Hough (14, 43).

"That was nice," Heyman said. "It took a lot of pressure off one player."

All but Dukes played in the final game, but that was not her choice. The junior forward was slowed by a late-season hamstring injury and reaggravated it in the district tournament.

Having another scorer in a close game would have helped, Heyman said, but the cost might have been too great.

"She could have done some serious damage to it," Heyman said. "Knowing the kind of player Deja is, she wasn't going to just run. She was going to sprint if the ball got past her. She wasn't going to jog to get it."

Coaches from the county's other playoff teams spoke of players with similar drive and effort.

Like Skip Glover, who in his fourth season at River Ridge found out what it was like to coach a district championship team in the playoffs. And Vicky King, who has made Land O'Lakes a perennial contender, two-time state qualifier and 2003 champion.

Gulf coach Shari Schau, whose team had its second nine-win season after one victory in 2003-04, did not fare as well. Gulf had the only losing record (9-10-6) among the county qualifiers.

Still, Shau took pride in her team.

"One of our team goals was to make it to regionals and we did that," she said. "I'm pretty happy with where we're at."

[Last modified February 1, 2006, 01:03:19]

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