Moments before loading onto a charter bus Tuesday bound for Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium, Clearwater Central Catholic's Monica Ceraolo walked onto the Marauders' playing field with the rest of her teammates, bent over and grabbed a grass clipping from a spot just in front of goal.
"I'm grabbing this from where I scored my first header," Ceraolo announced to teammates.
It was a scene that would repeat itself again and again as each player reached down to uproot a piece of the grass turf and place it in a plastic bag held by coach Tom Typrowicz.
CCC's unique lawn manicuring habit is a tradition Typrowicz started in 2000. The way he remembers it, that team's senior captain Katie Zimmerman, now Katie Probst, lamented the fact her team was forced to play a playoff game away from the home field where it had yet to lose.
"So I decided to let the girls bring a part of the field with us, and we've done it every playoff game since," Typrowicz said.
The significance is twofold, according to the ninth-year coach. The team gets to bring a familiar piece of home on each road trip. The crumbled pieces of grass mixed with dirt also remind the girls that they represent every player who has ever stepped foot on CCC's field and played for the Marauders.
"Sometimes we have to tone it down a bit or the girls would take whole chunks of the field," Typrowicz joked.
When the Marauders arrive at Lockhart Stadium for today's state semifinal against Lake Highland Prep at noon, they'll sprinkle the grass onto the field during pregame warmups.
"It's there for moral support," junior midfielder Summer Ewing said. "So we feel like we're at home."