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Girls team's season one of highs, lows

The Bloomingdale soccer team reached the state finals after having lost only once during regular season action.

By BRYAN BURNS
Published February 17, 2006


VALRICO - Bloomingdale girls soccer coach Sue Peet wasn't quite sure what to expect from her team coming into the 2005-06 season.

Sure, she had a number of key players, including seven starters, returning from a squad that made it to the regional final.

Forwards Lia Hughes and Sara Macko would be entering their senior year. Junior midfielder Marissa Kazbour, a member of the U.S. women's under-17 national team, would return as one of the area's premier players.

But Peet knew a number of first-year students would have to step up and contribute right away if the Bulls were to build on their success.

How those ninth-graders would mix with the returning core players would define Bloomingdale's success.

"I didn't know what to expect," Peet said.

Consider the chemistry experiment a success.

Bloomingdale finished 24-2-1 and advanced all the way to the Class 5A state final before losing to Palm Harbor University, 2-0. The Bulls won districts and regionals, beating Newsome in both finals, and defeated Fleming Island 4-1 to earn the state runnerup trophy.

It was Bloomingdale's first trip to the final four since they won it all in 2001.

Their success, however, wasn't realized right away. Peet had difficulty settling on a starting lineup. The younger players were having trouble blending with the upperclassmen.

"All season I struggled to define our team," Peet said. "We didn't really gel until the end of the season."

The Bulls lost an early game to Newsome in the Coca-Cola Classic Clearwater Thanksgiving tournament. That loss would prove to be their only one of the season.

Adding to the Bulls' mixture of lineups was the early-season loss of co-captain Macko. An operation to repair cartilage in her knee forced her to miss the start of the season. She came back for six games but blew out her ankle, ending her high school career.

Bloomingdale overcame its early season adversity to put together a remarkable season.

"I think our depth helped us tremendously," Peet said. "Our players were able to adapt to any situation or environment we were in."

After its early loss to Newsome, the Bulls dominated the rest of the way, allowing just nine goals during the regular season and 12 overall.

"We really believed in ourselves," Marissa Kazbour said. "Once we reached districts and kept winning, we didn't think we could lose."

Kazbour and the Bulls will look to carry over that mentality to the 2006-07 season. Bloomingdale loses just five seniors from this year's team. Fourteen players, including Kazbour, return. The Bulls will likely be one of the best teams in Hillsborough County and a favorite to win it all next year.

"We have high expectations for next season," Kazbour said. "Once we get into the big games, we're going to remember how bad it felt to lose. We don't want that to happen again."

[Last modified February 16, 2006, 15:05:54]


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