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Lightning starts tourney well

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000

Countryside Lightning's under-14 girls team cruised through the Florida Youth Soccer Association's State Cup two weeks ago.

Now it will try to do the same at the Southern Regionals in Plano, Texas.

The Lightning began round robin play Friday with a 1-0 win over North Carolina.

In other games, the under-19 girls Tampa Bay Heather defeated Oklahoma 3-2 while the under-19 boys Temple Terrace Spirit routed Louisiana 9-1. The Heather faces Tennessee at 2 p.m. today while the Spirit take on North Texas, also at 2 p.m.

The Lightning took the lead 20 minutes into the match on a direct kick by April Jacobs. The shot hit the underside of the cross bar before landing in the back of the net.

Heading into a 20-25 mph wind in the second half, the team had some good scoring chances but could not convert.

The defense, anchored by sweeper Sage Graham and keeper Lori Hammer, shined in registering its 26th shutout of the season.

The Lightning plays at noon today against North Texas and at 8 a.m. Sunday against Arkansas.

Semifinals are at 8 a.m. Monday, and the final is at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Countryside is the top-ranked team in the 12-team field.

This is the first time under-14 teams have been invited to the regional tournament. Lightning 85, the team's nickname, is the only boys or girls club team from Pinellas County that qualified. "If they made us the top seed, that doesn't bother me," Lightning coach Steve Mitchell said before the tournament. "Our girls have been playing well, and they probably deserve it. And once the games begin, it doesn't matter what you're seeded anyway."

Countryside outscored its State Cup opponents 14-4. If the Lightning advances past the Southern Regional, it will play in the national tournament July 23-30 at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.

- Times Staff Writer Rodney Page contributed to this report.

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