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Leesburg forward flips over district victory

4A-9

Sara Williams has a weapon rarely seen at any level of soccer, forget high school.

On throw-ins the Leesburg forward starts out nearly 10 yards behind the sideline. She sprints toward the field, plants the ball in the ground 2 yards behind the line with both hands, catapults head over heels and lands on her feet, the ball coming up behind her.

The forward momentum generated by the flip shoots the ball some 40 yards into the box, creating scoring opportunities.

On Friday, that delivered a district title.

Williams' flip throws led to both goals in Leesburg's 2-0 win over top-seeded Springstead in the Class 4A, District 9 final.

Springstead (16-3-4) travels to Tarpon on Thursday for the region quarterfinals.

The Eagles kept Leesburg (15-8-3) off the scoreboard for 52 minutes, but the Jackets had more chances and finally broke through in the 53rd minute as Williams started a play with a throw-in from the right side.

Leesburg's Holly Cauthen corraled the throw in front of the box and shot. Springstead keeper Whitney Nissen saved it but allowed a rebound, which Allison Carroll finished for the goal.

Twelve minutes later Williams threw again from the left into the box, where it awkwardly hit Springstead's Shannon Strat in her side and ricocheted into the left corner of the net.

"I just throw it in and expect somebody to get it," Williams said. "I was so surprised it hit (Strat)."

Leesburg had an emotional edge all night with its student-filled crowd, and the team gave the crowd plenty to cheer, outshooting Springstead 15-5.

"They were like wild women out there, they never gave us a chance to breathe," Springstead coach Randy Strat said.

Williams said she learned the flip through gymnastics and has used it since youth soccer.

"I've seen one other girl try it this year," Williams said. "She fell."

3A-6

PASCO 3, HERNANDO 0: Pasco's hidden motivator for the district final was revealed moments after the game. Several players lifted jerseys over their heads to reveal T-shirts proclaiming the Pirates as district champions.

"I was waiting for that last whistle to throw my (game jersey) off," said Jami Pass, who had two goals and an assist.

The victory at W.F. Edwards Stadium gave Pasco (14-6-1) its first district title, which leads to another first.

The Pirates host their first playoff game, a region quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Thursday against 3A-5 runnerup Ocala West Port.

"It's just great," Pass said. "There are no words to describe it."

First-year coach Wardell Powell ordered the specialty shirts two weeks ago and passed them out at Thursday's practice, a day after Pasco's 6-0 semifinal win against Nature Coast.

Pasco, which beat Hernando 3-1 and 6-0 this season, led 2-0 at the half on goals by Pass and Rosalba Velasquez, who returned to the lineup after sitting out two games because of a red card.

Pass took a through ball from Crystal Hughes and scored on a breakaway in the 15th minute for her county-leading 43rd goal.

In the 29th minute Pass crossed to Velasquez, who sent a chip shot over Hernando goalkeeper Karen Ferrigno.

Shortly after scoring her 16th goal, Velasquez left the game with a right leg injury.

Hernando (10-9-2), limited to one shot in the first half, had eight in the second but could get nothing past keeper Victoria Schrader, who got her ninth shutout.

Pass capped the scoring with her 44th goal in the 78th minute on a low shot into the left corner.

_ STEVE LEE

4A-10

TARPON SPRINGS 5, ZEPHYRHILLS 1: Tarpon Springs defended its district title, beating the No. 3 seed in light rain. If anything, Tarpon Springs coach John Freiermuth said, "winning district two years in a row was a goal for us this season."

But the Spongers can't help but think about state semifinals, where their season ended last season.

"We have three games to go," Freiermuth said.

Paige Beyer scored two goals in the first half, and with Jordan Beyer's goal the Spongers led 3-0 at the break. Libby Gianeskis and Brandi Bianco each added a goal in the second half. Zephyrhills' Deja Dukes put the Bulldogs (10-10-1) on the board with 12 minutes left.

Bulldogs keeper Samantha Smith was impressive despite the loss, saving 14 shots on goal. Sponger starting keeper Alexia Berg made two saves before being replaced by Megan Nowikoswki in the second half.

Tarpon Springs (15-3) finished the district season and tournament undefeated (12-0) and hosts Seabreeze on Thursday.

_ ERIC MUSKATEVC

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