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Land O'Lakes football evaluating female kicker Tara Marshall

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Wed. May 5, 2010 | Izzy Gould | Email

Matt Kitchie has never dealt with a female football player until now. The Land O'Lakes coach was approached by Tara Marshall, the Gators' starting goalkeeper for the girls soccer team. 

"She said, 'I want to try this (kicking for the football team),' " Kitchie said. "She's a pretty good soccer player, kicks the ball a long ways and might be able to help."

Kitchie said Marshall is one of five players vying for varsity kicking jobs. He said he envisions her as a place kicker or punter.

"She's in the mix," Kitchie said. "She definitely belongs there."

Obviously, one of the first thoughts is the potential for Marshall to be involved in a live play. She might have to make a tackle, fight off a block or pounce on a loose ball.

Land O'Lakes soccer coach Vicky King supports Marshall's decision.

"She could get in car accident as easy as getting hurt in a sport," King said. "We have kids that trip over curbs. Accidents happen to teenage kids. ...It's her choice. I can't stop her from doing it."

Kitchie said right now the focus is on kicking, but there will be opportunities to see how she reacts to a live situation.

"Right now we want to worry about her kicking the ball," Kitchie said. "It's no different than any other kicker. After that, if they make a tackle or get hit that's part of the territory. ...It's a new situation. If she's the best kicker we'll use her. In my opinion the best player plays. We want to keep the winning tradition."

There have been other female football players in the county. In 2007, Courtney Cohen made headlines, becoming the first female kicker at Gulf. That season she kicked 30 extra points and a pair of field goals for the 6-4 Buccaneers.

igould@tampabay.com

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