Leslie Golden was a most unwilling convert. But soon after switching from outside back to sweeper for the Bloomingdale girls soccer team last season, Golden's play became 14-karat solid.
And this year, the senior is the main force behind the Bulls' golden season.
"Leslie begged me not to switch her last year," Bloomingdale coach Jo Garber said. "Sweeper is a very responsible position, and there's a lot of pressure involved with it. Leslie didn't think that she could do it. But I thought she had the speed and the skill, so I played a hunch."
That hunch has been paying dividends ever since.
Bloomingdale, ranked No. 6 in the latest Class 4A state poll, advanced into the state final four by defeating Seminole 1-0 last Friday in the Section II championship.
The Bulls (15-3) will face Coconut Creek (22-0 and ranked No. 2) Friday at 8 p.m. in a state semifinal. Longwood Lyman (27-0, ranked No. 1) plays Miami Killian (14-4, unranked) in the other semifinal at 2 p.m.
The winners will meet Saturday night at 7 for the state championship.
"Our defense has been playing absolutely wonderful, and has really been the key to our last couple wins," Garber said. "We play an offensive type of defense, and Leslie is in charge of directing it. She does an outstanding job."
In the sectional last week, Bloomingdale didn't allow Seminole a shot in the second half because of constant pressure by Golden and defenders Allison Davis, Adrienne Meredith and Shannon Anderson.
"I had never played the position when coach asked me to switch to sweeper," said Golden, one of the Bulls' three captains this year. "But after the Seminole Tournament (last year), I was voted most valuable player, and that was a real confidence-builder. After that, they wouldn't let me quit."
Bloomingdale will be making its first appearance in the state championships. And after losing to Seminole in the sectional the past two years, Golden said the opportunity has been a long time in the making.
"This is a dream come true," said Golden, who has started for Bloomingdale since her sophomore season.
"Last year, everyone expected us to go to state, so it was very disappointing when we lost to Seminole. This year, no one expected it because we're so young (Bloomingdale only starts four seniors). That makes it even more exciting."
Golden is in charge of directing a Bloomingdale defense that has allowed only 18 goals all season. She is responsible for reading opponents' offensive schemes, and telling her teammates which players to mark.
"Leslie is a natural leader on the field," sophomore goalkeeper Amber Collins said. "She basically keeps the defense in line because she knows where everyone should be, and she can see the entire field from her position.
"The last few games the defense has been doing a great job of keeping the ball away from me."
Another of Golden's responsibilities is deciding when to clear the ball, and when to make a run upfield.
"Sometimes a pass from the defense isn't always the best way to get the ball over midfield," Garber said. "So when the opportunity affords itself, and if they have the space and time, I like to see my defense make runs up the field. That's another thing I have Leslie direct. And she's scored two goals for us this year."
Bloomingdale is led offensively by Heather Ott's 36 goals and 12 assists. Sophomore sensation Christy Reccord has chipped in with 28 goals. Jenny Hill, who is the Bulls' main playmaker with 19 assists, and Jill Mott have scored 16 and 13 goals, respectively.
"At the beginning of the year, I'd be real disappointed if I didn't score, but now I'd rather just make things happen," Hill said. "I get just as much satisfaction out of creating plays than finishing."
This weekend, the Bulls will try to put the finishing touches on a very golden season.