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LEESBURG — The best season in Nature Coast history didn’t end the way the Sharks had envisioned.
Nature Coast fell 4-1 in the Class 3A, District 6 semifinals to host Leesburg on Thursday after falling behind early.
The Sharks (10-8-1) surrendered a goal in the 13th minute, but the team did not seem derailed. However, quick scores from Leesburg (13-6-1) in the 19th and 24th minutes changed that. It was difficult for Nature Coast to deal with a 3-0 deficit going into the locker room at halftime.
“We were definitely surprised by the way it started,” Nature Coast coach Ian Wald said. “We thought we had a good chance to win, but the kids felt a little bit defeated when we talked to them at the half.”
The coaching staff tried to get the team back on track, and the Sharks looked solid for the first 20 minutes of the second half. Once the Yellow Jackets pushed in another goal, they were unable to regroup.
The lone goal for Nature Coast came from junior William Sandifer. The score was only his second of the season, and it was assisted on a pass from fellow junior Chris Howell.
Because Nature Coast loses only two starters to graduation, Wald is excited to surpass the performance from this season. The 10 wins and district semifinal berth are both best in the program’s 10-year history.
“The kids are responding well to the coaching staff, and we are trying to build the program in a specific way,” said Wald, in his third year as coach. “We got things going in the right direction this year, and we expect to get even better next season.”