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Respect has many faces

Sure, the Hillsborough girls soccer team is 16-0. And, yes, the Terriers have allowed only five goals this season. There's no doubt the No. 1 seed they own heading into this week's Class 5A, District 7 tournament is a nice payoff.

But those three things are far from the Terriers' most important accomplishments this season.

What is important can't be measured on a stat sheet, figured into a state poll or emblazoned on a T-shirt with a catchy slogan.

It's respect, something the 23 members of the school-record-setting team experience every day.

Such as when the boys basketball team, highly successful in its own right, makes a point to march out of the gym and toward the girls as they gather for practice, applauding the whole way.

Or when a teacher stops a player in the hall and asks about last night's game. When, as forward Laura Scaglione put it, the fans in the stands are higher than the temperature outside.

That's when you know you've accomplished something. At least if you're on the girls team at Hillsborough.

"There were fans at our games," Bridget Coughlin said. "That's never happened before."

A quick glance shows there wasn't any reason for anyone to show up before this season.

In their three previous years on the Terriers varsity team, Scaglione, Coughlin, Jessie Anzevino, Aaran Drake, Marie Howe and Emily Fedeles had not won 16 games combined. Not only have the six seniors blown that record away, they can claim the first undefeated season in school history.

As Howe, a senior midfielder, said, "It was one of those seasons where you sit down before it starts and say "Wouldn't it be cool if ' and it all comes true"

For others it was something they didn't dare think seriously about.

"I always wished we could have been one of those top teams. But it was always just a dream," Coughlin said. "In fact, at the beginning of the season when Coach (Ron Fedeles) made us write down our goals for the year, mine were "Get experience to be able to play well against teams like Durant and Bloomingdale.' Forget "Win the district title,' I didn't even think about that."

The Terriers have put to use a very powerful combination of senior leadership and young talent. With eight freshmen on the roster and seven juniors, the players felt they had a decent shot to build a foundation.

Nobody knew it would be this strong.

"We knew we had some talent with some of the returning players," Fedeles said. "But there are a lot of talented teams around here with good players."

And most of them have fallen victim to the Terriers this season.

The Terriers beat Plant, Sickles, East Bay, Brandon, King and, yes, Durant. It was that win in the Tampa Bay Tech holiday tournament that opened eyes around the county. And instilled belief in the Terriers themselves.

After that, games started getting tougher as teams shot for the suddenly mighty Terriers. It was exactly what the Terriers wanted.

"It's not about wanting to win regionals or anything like that anymore," Scaglione said. "Now it's about who we play."

Added Coughlin: "We want to beat teams we have personal experiences with. Like Gaither. We've never beaten Gaither. Now it's about beating teams that always beat us and just think of us as, "Oh, it's just Hillsborough.' "