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By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 3, 2001
When asked about the history of the Senior Soccer Challenge, which pits Pinellas County all-stars against Hillsborough County all-stars, Pinellas coach Rick Masi doesn't hesitate in bringing up what he believes is the most important fact.
"We're 2-5 against them," Masi said. "I've been telling them that all week."
Now in its eighth year, the event is like most post-season all-star games. It's a chance for seniors to play one more game before graduation and impress one of the college coaches sprinkled throughout the crowd.
There also is a $1,000 scholarship awarded to a boys and girls player who writes the best essay on what soccer means to them.
But above all, the teams want bragging rights. Hillsborough has been doing the bragging lately. Its boys and girls teams have won the past two years. The Hillsborough girls lead their series 4-2-1. "We've had some great games," said Frank Ferguson, organizer of the game. "This year should be no different."
The teams were selected by area coaches. Each school submitted a list of seniors and the list was whittled to 20 players.
Heading the list for the Hillsborough boys is Bryce Wegerle of Gaither and John Kluft, Eric Gryzbowski and Justin Trowbridge of state champion Jesuit.
The Hillsborough girls have five players from state champion Bloomingdale: Kim Martins, Tara Escribano, Amber Littleton, Lyndi Bernhisel and Lyndrea Sutherland.
The Pinellas boys are led by Mike Martino and Tom Gluski of state champion Clearwater, Paul Kolovos of Palm Harbor U. and goalkeeper Kyle Craig of Osceola.
PHU's strong senior class of Kristen Hlad, Devon Sibole, Sarah McGonegal, Pam Szott and Jennifer Walters highlight the Pinellas girls team. Osceola's Michelle Mione and Seminole's Brandi Herrmann also are top players.
Both of last year's games went to shootouts. The past two boys games went to shootouts, both Hillsborough wins. Masi said he hopes this year's game will be just as close.
"Team Hillsborough is supposed to wipe us out," Masi said. "But we've got some scrappy guys. It should be a good game."