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Knights' 'Pingy' fitting in

By LINDA ROTHSTEIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 11, 2001


NEW PORT RICHEY -- After moving four times since elementary school, Ashlee Brower has found the key to fitting in right away -- joining a sports team.

The junior transferred to River Ridge from Plano West Senior High School near Dallas during the middle of last year.

"Joining a team is kind of like automatic friends and you get to know people better and faster," Brower said. "It's a lot easier than just coming here and not knowing anybody."

Brower made the varsity volleyball team in the fall and is now a starter for the Royal Knights' soccer team.

The center-midfielder leads the team with 13 assists and also has one goal.

"Assisting, it's not really that hard I guess, it's just the placement of the ball," Brower said. "It helps that we have forwards that can go ahead and score off of whatever ball is put up there."

Brower has started all 14 games for the Knights (9-4-1) and has taken 20 shots on goal. So many of those have banged off of the posts or crossbar that her teammates call her "Pingy."

"I like kind of being the behind-the-scenes person," Brower said. "I don't really like the spotlight all that much, so scoring that many goals is not that big to me."

Brower also has committed the most fouls on the team. Coach Keith Hooper said the fouls are indicative of Brower's aggressive style of play.

"She's a person that wants to succeed out on the field," Hooper said. "It's not dirty fouls but it's like, 'I-want-the-ball' type of fouls. 'I'll do whatever I have to do to get the ball."

Being a member of two teams has helped Brower fit in quickly at her new school. She made a good friend in Mandi Patrella during volleyball season, and the friendship has extended onto the soccer field.

"It's always really good to have somebody come out and help out the team and contribute like Ashlee did," Patrella said. "I haven't ever transferred schools myself so I'm sure, especially coming from out of state, so it's not like it's just around the corner, it has to be hard to do something like that."

Brower has given a boost to the team, Hooper said, helping replace last year's graduates.

"She's been a tremendous aspect to the team," Hooper said. "We look to Ashlee to fill some gaps and so far she's been successful doing that."

Playing soccer in Florida has been a little different for Brower. In Dallas, the season is in the spring, but she also played with a select team during the winter.

"Here, the level of play is different, it's not what I'm used to," Brower said. "Just the skill level is higher here. They focus more on tactics, a lot of shooting, shooting more here. As soon as I came here, coach Hooper helped me adjust my shot more and it became more effective."

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