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Matchup reunites old friends, foes

Even with the presence of nine former Pasco County soccer players on the field, today's match between Saint Leo College and Newberry (S.C.) is not to be confused with a high school alumni game.

For five Newberry Indians, as well as coach Bobby Ladimir, who played at Hudson, today's 1 p.m. game will be a homecoming of sorts.

Meanwhile, for four Saint Leo players, it's much more than a mere home game since they will be facing former teammates and high school foes.

"It's going to be a reunion for a lot of us," said former Gulf goalkeeper Charlie Long, who played at Newberry last season before transferring to Saint Leo this summer.

"It's going to be fun after the game just to see some of the guys and talk to them."

The Pasco County players for both teams include:

Saint Leo _ Long and Sean Barrett (Gulf), and Josh Paris and Pio Rizzo (River Ridge).

Newberry _ David Anderson (Land O'Lakes), Rick Ladimir (Hudson), Justin Nealon and Travis Kobler (River Ridge), and Matt Lemming (Ridgewood).

Newberry's list could have been longer, but former Zephyrhills players T.J. Rosa and Geoff Castro were redshirted last season and opted not to return to the Division II college.

As for Long, the new Saint Leo goalkeeper admits he had a hard time accepting Newberry's 4-16 record while playing primarily in a backup role. He is now content with his decision to transfer. The sophomore, who did not play in Saint Leo's first two games, has been working with coach Steve Boyle, who holds the school record for shutouts (17).

Bobby Ladimir is banking on some home cooking to improve on his team's 1-2 start (Newberry played Webber College in Lake Wales on Friday but results were unavailable at press time)."

"Hopefully, getting to go home will spark the team," Bobby Ladimir said. "I think it's going to be a pretty mixed crowd. That could push us."

Added Lions coach Fran Reidy, "I would imagine for a Sunday afternoon the crowd could be split 50-50."

Bill Nealon, an assistant coach at River Ridge, will root for both teams since both list former Royal Knights, including his son.

The Nealon family is housing about half of Newberry's 21-player roster, or, he said, "more than I'd like to. We've got a full house."

Still, Nealon said the Newberry players were scheduled to go on a picnic Saturday and attend the Tampa Bay Mutiny-Kansas City Wizards game that night.

Long said he hoped to see some of the Pasco County players at that game.

Unlike Newberry, which lists 17 freshmen, Saint Leo (1-1) has about a 50-50 mix of upperclassmen and lowerclassmen. That makes the Lions (10-8 last year) a prohibitive favorite.

Although Ladimir starts eight freshmen, he feels playing Saint Leo could be just what his team needs.

"This is probably the best thing for us," Ladimir said. "We're playing sound soccer, but it's just not there. We're missing that intangible."

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