Four years ago, Nola Rasper was struggling to make the Hernando girls soccer team. Just weeks from graduation, Rasper may leave as one of the Leopards' most decorated players.
On Saturday, the senior defender was named to the Class 4A all-state team by the Florida Athletic Coaches Association. The announcement came as Rasper celebrated another honor, playing in the Senior All-Star Classic earlier that afternoon. She finishes as one of Hernando's top defenders, which also earned her a scholarship to Lees-McRae College, a Division II school in North Carolina.
Rasper was one of 22 athletes named by the FACA to the all-state team. Two goalkeepers, six defenders, seven midfielders, and seven forwards are selected.
For years, Hernando girls soccer coach Rick Ahrens has repeated the story of how the 5-foot-4 Rasper fought off taller, stronger and more talented players to catch his attention as a freshman. But when Ahrens began telling the story at every year-end sports banquet, Rasper tactfully asked him to stop. "She told me if I told it one more time she'd shoot me," he said.
"It was nice to see a kid who worked so hard get the recognition she deserves," Ahrens added. "It helps our program when they see a girl who basically knew nothing about soccer and through hard work got herself to this level."
Ahrens was able to share in Rasper's success one last time as he was chosen an assistant coach for the West team in the all-star game. It was the first time Ahrens was so honored. He coached alongside Randy Buckstein of Clearwater Central Catholic, a perennial state power.
"I really enjoyed talking to him and seeing his train of thought," Ahrens said. "You always hear about the glory of this program and it's nice to get a chance to talk to them."