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DeAngelis likes being first in line at Saint Leo

(ran PC edition of PASCO TIMES)

Springstead soccer standout is the school's first women's signee and thinks it will be nice to be a leader on its first team.

Angie DeAngelis is a willful individual. The Springstead High senior doesn't appear to care too much what many people think, whether the topic is the gaudy amount of goals she scored for her soccer team, what her future is, and where it will be played out.

Saint Leo University's first women's soccer signee is an interesting one.

After leading the North Suncoast with 52 goals this season, but being given no consideration by area coaches as a Gulf Coast Athletic Conference player-of-the-year candidate, DeAngelis would seemingly have thrown herself back into her year-round training regimen with Eagles boys coach John Bifulco. That had been her modus operandi. Prove them all wrong.

DeAngelis deked everyone, however, including Bifulco. She instead dedicated herself to her second sport _ track _ in which she runs middle distances.

Bifulco had long seen potential in her, and even lent her his old woolen sock garters for good luck before her senior season. He demanded she dedicate herself to soccer, because that is where he had long asserted her future was.

"When she started track, she was coming to train afterwards and her legs weren't there," Bifulco said. "It was like starting over. I told her she worked so hard to be a good soccer player, she needed to drop track.

"If I thought she could have been a state-placer, it would have been hard to tell her no-no-no. But why not be the very best in one thing instead of being average in both?"

DeAngelis listened, and made a decision. She and Bifulco have not spoken since. DeAngelis said she doubts they will work together again.

"I made my choice," she said. "I did it because soccer is something I can't do every single day without a break. I don't want to be tired and miserable of it.

"I want it to make me happy, and track makes me happy."

So does Saint Leo, for many reasons. A 3.5 grade-point average earned DeAngelis significant academic scholarship money, and soccer coach Tony Paris was able to fill in almost all of the rest of her expenses with athletic money.

Paris has officially been the women's coach since 1995, but did not know until August that next season would be the first.

"We'll be in a little different situation than many new teams in that we did not have a club team going," he said. "But we'll give it a go. Someone who scored 52 goals is a good start."

For DeAngelis, more important than the standard close-but-not-too-close-to-home factor is that the team will be hers right away. She did not know she was the first recruit, but she knew she would be on the first team.

"I like the fact it's a new program and I won't have to go into someone else's team," she said. "I think it'll be nice to be there from the start."

Being Player Alpha probably means DeAngelis will get her pick of uniform numbers, which means No. 5. She switched numbers every year in high school, and thinks she may have finally found a lucky one.

DeAngelis admits playing as a freshman also was a lure, even though the team would apparently have a few leans years ahead. Saint Leo still needs 12 more players, according to Paris, and is likely to start all freshmen.

"I'm not worried about that," DeAngelis said. "I've been on teams before that weren't the best, but things turned out okay anyway."

Those are the kind of things Paris likes to hear. He also thinks a willful attitude can help his team through the difficult first few seasons.

"We're going to need an assertive leader out there," he said.

At her best, DeAngelis is a deadly scorer, super-quick off the dribble and able to strike from well outside the penalty box. At her worst, her thin frame sometimes is engulfed by physical, nagging defenses that stifle her effectiveness.

"She has the makings of a very good Division II player," Springstead coach Bill Horvath said, "as long as she can improve on her one-on-one play. In college you're a marked person as soon as you step on the field."

Bifulco said DeAngelis needs to begin training again _ with someone.

"If Angie is going to be a part of their first playing class, they're going to get a real good forward," he said. "But without training, college is a whole different world."

DeAngelis had long hoped to play at a Division I school, but interest was minimal after she failed to make it through the first round of Olympic Development Program trials last summer, Horvath said. DeAngelis had begun concentrating on smaller schools such as Eckerd College.

Ironically, it was a Springstead assistant track coach who told her Saint Leo was starting a women's soccer program.

"I think it all worked out pretty good," she said.