When Rick Ahrens heard the news, you could have knocked him over with a feather.
No easy trick, that.
But that is how astonished the Hernando High girls soccer coach was to learn that Leopards seniors Lindsey Copeland and Aliza Loveday had been named to the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Class 4A all-state team (see list of all teams on 8C).
"I was absolutely in shock," Ahrens said. "I was hoping for honorable mention at best."
Ahrens' surprise was not due to any doubt Copeland and Loveday deserved the honor, but because area schools such as Hernando are not considered to be in the same league as programs that boasted most of the FACA honorees.
"They were reading off the names of the schools represented _ (Jacksonville) Bolles, all the perennial powers," Ahrens said. "And to have two names in there even though we come from a quote-unquote weaker area, shows we have some individuals capable of playing at that level.
"And to get the support from the other coaches is great. I'm not even a voting member on that (poll), so that shows what the other coaches thought of them."
Ahrens nominated Copeland and Loveday for the team, which was voted on by soccer coaches designated as district leaders from across the state. It is easy to see what prompted them to select the Hernando pair.
Copeland was the key offensive threat for the Leopards. She had 28 goals this season, breaking her own school record of 26 from her junior year. She also had several assists and has been named player of the year for the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference a second straight year.
Goalkeeper Loveday was the last line of defense, and it was a line few crossed. As a sophomore, she set a national record (though not confirmed until her senior year) by recording 395 saves across a 20-game season.
As a junior, she recorded 12 consecutive shutouts, an unofficial state record for an individual goalkeeper (as opposed to a team).