Springstead's Angie DeAngelis and Zephyrhills' DeeDee Castro are key to their team's success, although Castro may be ailing for tonight's final.
Any number of cliches profess the wisdom of utilizing the player who brought a team success.
The Springstead and Zephyrhills girls soccer teams did just that in advancing to the final of the Class 2A, District 6 tournament a 7 tonight at Hernando High, even to the point of risking "the girl that brought them to the dance" when victory was certain.
Springstead coach Bill Horvath gambled and won, leaving 52-goal-scorer Angie DeAngelis in all but 6 minutes of an 8-0 win over Wesley Chapel and an 8-1 shellacking of Central. Zephyrhills coach Janet Heyman gambled, leaving leading scorer DeeDee Castro in an eventual 10-0 semifinal victory over Hudson on Wednesday, and is still awaiting the result.
Castro, whose three goals against the Cobras elevated her season total to 25, reaggravated a chronic ankle injury when she was tackled with less than two minutes left and had to be assisted off the field and to the team bus.
Heyman said Castro was in because she wanted her starters to finish the game.
The injury is an after-effect, Heyman said, of a broken ankle Castro suffered as a child. Castro aggravated the injury in a game against River Ridge earlier this season, but has missed no game time because of it, she said.
Heyman said she is used to the injury, but was especially concerned Wednesday by Castro's demeanor.
"I am alarmed," she said. "Whenever she goes down and she is upset as she was, I am very alarmed. Hopefully she'll have a speedy recovery. We're crossing our fingers."
Horvath did the same in reinserting DeAngelis with about 13 minutes left and the Eagles leading 7-1 in the other semifinal Wednesday.
He had his reservations.
"I wanted to take her out because she was being taken down at the ankles," he said. "They were making sliding tackles on her a lot and I was afraid she was going to get hurt."
DeAngelis' insistence on returning swayed him, but unlike Heyman, he moved his star away from the fray, from the center forward spot.
Springstead's players may actually be upset if Castro is unable to play or play to her full abilities. The Eagles (15-2-3), who lost their first meeting with the Bulldogs, have been anticipating another meeting since Castro scored in the final two minutes on Jan. 7 to secure the victory.
Springstead players actually cheered "DeeDee" from the stands while watching the first half of the Bulldogs' game Wednesday.
"I like playing Zephyrhills," DeAngelis said. "They're physical and fast and make me play good."
Heyman said sophomore defender Kristen Benedini would shadow DeAngelis tonight.
Zephyrhills (13-6-2) would be lessened without Castro's long-range scoring abilities, but it would not be punchless. Junior forward Joslynn Willis scored four times against Hudson _ raising her total to 21 _ while using her menacing speed to create numerous breaks into the penalty box.
Junior Ashley McGavern has 18 goals this season. They, however, are better in Castro's presence.