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U-15 girls soccer team wins national division title

So this is what coach Phil Castro envisioned when he formed a team of elite soccer players _ to be the best of the best.

The Temple Terrace Spirit, an Under-15 team of girls from Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Polk counties, claimed a divisional championship in the Super Club National tournament. The Spirit defeated the Carmel (Ind.) United Cobras 1-0 in a shootout for the title July 23 at the Disney World Sports Complex in Orlando.

"I was pretty confident in my shooters," said Castro, who also coaches the Zephyrhills High boys varsity team. "I knew we were not going to lose with our first five shooters. If anything, it would be tied or we would win."

Goals by Stacy Bishop _ of Land O'Lakes High _ Allison Beasman and Amber Gifford along with three saves by goalkeeper Alison Doyle made sure the shootout wasn't extended to a second round.

Defenders Nicole Castro, the coach's daughter, and Renee Yonkof, both of whom play for Zephyrhills High, keyed a Spirit defense that limited the opposition to two goals in four games. Following a 2-1 loss to the Cobras in the first match, the Spirit reeled off back-to-back shutout wins over Connecticut, 4-0, and Satellite Beach, 1-0, to reach the final.

Gifford, a guest player from Lakeland, led the Spirit with a pair of goals. Bishop had a goal and two assists.

"She has the vision to create a good pass. She is the playmaker on the team," coach Castro said of Bishop, the Spirit's second-leading scorer with 19 goals and 18 assists.

Erin Dafeldecker, who previously played for competitive teams in the Central Pasco United Soccer Association, and Krystal Plomatos scored the Spirit's other goals.

The title capped a stellar 1998-99 season for the Spirit, which went 41-7-4, including 18-5-2 in tournament play. In all, the Spirit won three tournaments, two league titles and reached the Final 8 in the State Cup.

"We knew we had a good team," coach Castro said. "But we had to push it over the top and make them believe in themselves."