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Eagle coach believes area has improved

By BRANT JAMES and CAREY FREEMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 18, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- Times, and quality, have changed on the North Suncoast, Springstead coach John Bifulco said.

After starting the Springstead program in the early 1990s, leaving the school for New York, then returning last year to coach the Eagle boys, he has seen a major evolution in play.

The difference, he said, stems from the sideline.

"I told the kids, years ago when I started the program, the coaches were just some guy who wanted to be a coach, not necessarily someone with the background to be a coach," he said. "But now I'm very impressed."

With Pasco coach Barry Grayling in particular and the Citrus County coaches in general.

"We used to go over (to Pasco) years ago, won 10-0 and could come back at halftime. Now they're pretty good," he said. "And after watching the (Citrus County) boys play boot ball, the quality of the girls is as fine as I've seen in a long time. They really play soccer."

EVIDENCE: Citrus' Amy Bowen is playing quite well and has been for a while.

In scoring the game-winning goal against Lecanto last week, the senior not only kept a seven-year unbeaten streak against the Panthers alive, she scored her 150th career goal.

"I really wasn't thinking about it at the time," Bowen said. "All I was thinking about was winning the game. When we were tied, I felt we needed to step up. We were just pumped up to get the lead back. "I knew I had 149 goals going into the game, and I promised my dad that I'd try my hardest. I've had some problems scoring against Lecanto, so I promised him I'd get a goal. He was thrilled."

It could be a long time before anybody challenges Bowen's totals. She scored 34 goals in her freshman season, then added 50 and 49 in her next two seasons. She has 19 this season.

"It's kind of overwhelming to think I have that many," Bowen said. "I think I've worked hard the last three years, and I guess this shows all the hard work and dedication I've put into soccer."

BERNHARDT DONE: Springstead will not get a playoff boost in the form of injured forward Nicole Bernhardt. Bifulco said the senior has been told by doctors she will not be able to resume playing until March.

SHOOT! Central coach Hank Deslaurier believes he might have a secret weapon in outside back Amber Hutchinson, who scored her first varsity goal last week in a 1-0 win over Hernando.

Her looping shot from well outside of the penalty box sailed above Leanne Christian's fingertips to give the Bears their fourth win. The shot was as welcome a sight -- almost -- as the goal.

"I wish she would take a lot more shots," he said. "I'm always telling her, 'Pull the trigger. Pull the trigger.' She's always had the power to score, and she's been real close.

"As her game has developed, she's starting to feel more comfortable and she's starting to put the ball on frame."

Deslaurier believes Hutchinson, who won a local punt, pass and kick competition in 1998, eventually will scores 6-7 goals a season.

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