Tracy Buettner is a proud coach. Before Wednesday night's Class 4A, District 9 semifinal against Leesburg, her Citrus team was 11-4-5 after a sluggish 1-3 start. What makes that all the more impressive is what the Hurricanes have gone through.
In October, then-coach Tom Taylor, a 31-year-old middle school teacher, was killed in what police believe was a murder-suicide. He was an assistant the previous season and had become one of the school's most well-liked coaches.
"You never want to start with something so tragic," Buettner said. "But we really pulled together and became good friends. We have good players who have really worked hard to do well. Win or lose (Wednesday), we've been very successful."
Buettner, like Taylor, was an assistant last season. After Taylor's tragic death, she quickly accepted an offer to take over. Ethan Eldridge, the head coach last year, agreed to help.
"At times it has been a little rough coaching without (Taylor)," Buettner said. "It's kind of strange to take the field without him being here with us. Ethan and I have really grown in our friendship and in our coaching ability. We had to do it without Tom."
Along the way, lessons have been learned. And a new perspective has been found.
"We've seen the girls mature as people, not just as soccer players," Buettner said. "They've understood that being friends and being kind to each other are more important than how great you played on a certain night."
_ KEITH NIEBUHR
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