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Minnax is the best

She was quietly kicking the ball around with some of the other cross-country runners. Then someone pointed her out to first-year coach Kelli Hicks. "See that girl there," someone said as they pointed to junior Tara Minnax, "That is the one who will score you goals.".

Minnax did not disappoint.

The prolific scoring touch she possesses has earned her the Times

Hillsborough County girls soccer Player of the Year.

Minnax led the county in scoring (90 points) and tied for the lead in goals (37) with East Bay's Tia Oplinger. Minnax accomplished this feat despite fighting off double- and triple-team efforts virtually every night.

"She got physically beat up almost every night," Hicks said. "But she has such a good temperament that she never let it get to her. She fought back, but never out of control."

"I got worn down," Minnax said. "But I think (double teams) help because if two or three are marking me, that means one or two of my teammates are open and unmarked."

Team accomplishments have always taken precedent over individual success for Minnax.

"I was raised to do what was best for all, not just me," Minnax said.

"She doesn't like to talk about her own accomplishments," Hicks said. "She is a very modest and very disciplined person. She will try to put a positive spin on everything."

Her modesty is exemplified by her actions in one of the final games of the season. Hicks was going to pull her out late in the game until a teammate said Minnax could break the single-season school record for goals. She stayed in and broke the previous mark of 34.

"She told me that she didn't want to make a big deal about it," Hicks said. "But that is just how she is. She is not a showboat."

Though shy off the field, she is not afraid to speak up on the field or in team meetings. Already named the captain for next year, Hicks thinks of Minnax as an extension of the coach.

"She is an extra set of eyes on the field," Hicks said. "I will let everyone know what I thought was taking place and then ask Tara, "Is that what you saw?' and she will say yes I saw that and I also saw this.

"She is someone who will make a great coach some day because she is very instruction-oriented. She will not raise her voice and if something is not necessary, she won't say it. She is always positive, never negative."

"I try not to look at things negatively," Minnax said. "I try not to bring people down."

As for being captain next year, Minnax is not sure what to expect.

"It is going to be weird," she said. "Everyone will be looking to me. I am used to everyone looking to Lauren (Thomas), but now I will be responsible for the team on and off the field."

What she managed on the field is incredible, but imagine what it could have been.

"Tara in one of the most skilled players I have ever been around," Hicks said. "She has such a natural ability that it would have been so easy to say just give the ball to Tara and let her score, which she could have done 99 out of 100 times. But she didn't want that. She is always looking to set up a play for someone else."

All-county girls soccer

The All-Hillsborough County girls soccer team is selected by the Times

in consultation with area coaches.

FIRST TEAM

TARA MINNAX, F, Chamberlain; TIA OPLINGER, F, East Bay; CHRISTINA GAUDION, F, Brandon; STACY THOMAS, F, Tampa Cathlolic; KHARA MADDIX, MF, Durant; LINDALIZ ARAUZ, D, Berkeley Prep; MARIS CARR, D, Tampa Cathlolic; MARIENELLA CAMPOS, D, Gaither; CHRISTIE BRADY, D/MF, Plant City; LINDSEY FACCIOLO, MF, Tampa Prep; KORYN BATEMAN, GK, Bloomingdale; ALICIA BOSTAIN, GK, Gaither.

SECOND TEAM

MANDY SCHUMACHER, F, Durant; LAUREN THOMAS, MF, Chamberlain; BRYONY CHAMBERLAIN, MF, Tampa Catholic; ALLY GAUTHIER, MF, Berkeley Prep; TEAL TAGGERT, MF, Berkeley Prep; VIVIANO SARECENO, MF, Berkeley Prep; PADGETT CROWN, D, Berkeley Prep; GINGER LYNN, D,Tampa Cathlolic; DANA HEMKE, D, Chamberlain; ALEX GUIJARRO, D, King; KAYLA JOHNSON, GK, Tampa Prep.

HONORABLE MENTION

Armwood: Jolana Quinn; Berkeley Prep: Jennifer Gorny, Lauren Lanza; Bloomingdale: Ashley Ott, Maggie Willman, Jana Escribano, Christie Pollack; Chamberlain: Diana Hemke, Kim Myers, Jennifer Shepherd; Durant: Alexis Clarkson, Hayley Elswick, Jordan Seales, Angela Gillesse, Kellie Davis; East Bay: Hong-Van Le; Gaither: Erin Sharpe, Katie Chakour, Andrea Compos; Hillsborough: Jacki Lopez; King: Emily Winton, Caroline Hoit, Samantha Hoit, Amanda Bell; Plant: Jacque McCullough, Cathy Reimer, Kristen Braggins; Plant City: Wendy Layton; Tampa Catholic: Lisa Marie DiPoalo, Megan Donoho, Heidi Strom, Andi Tickles; Tampa Prep: Sara Swanson.

COACH OF THE YEAR

RORI RUSHING, Tampa Catholic: Guided a young team to the state final in the first year the Crusaders advanced past district.

KEN ROBERTS, Berkeley Prep: His team struggled through injuries and lineup changes and still advanced to the final four for the second straight year.

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