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Youth not holding Devils back

Defending Pinellas County Athletic Conference tourney champ St. Petersburg relies on its young players.

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 28, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- Brittney Lewis had cause for concern.

When a large freshman class infiltrated St. Petersburg's varsity squad last year, Lewis worried about the team's future.

"They really didn't respect the traditions we've had," Lewis said.

This season, the senior captain has watched as another wave of young players found its way onto the roster. Down five starters due to injuries in the season's first half, coach Rui Farias called on his junior varsity to prop up the Green Devils.

So far, so good. Defending champion St. Petersburg, buoyed by its young players, took a 12-4-4 record into this week's Pinellas County Athletic Conference tournament.

Sophomore co-captain Cory Woodworth said it took a while for the new players to mesh with the old, but the team is finally coming together.

"I'm impressed," Woodworth said.

Sophomore forward Emily Smith leads a talented group of young players. Smith and fellow sophomore Ali Caton tied for the team scoring lead last season. This season, Smith has shouldered a heavier load with Caton out until recently with a broken collarbone.

"I felt that even though I was a younger player, I had to step up and make sure we weren't getting down on ourselves," Smith said.

Smith leads the Green Devils again with 29 goals. But goals aren't everything. At the start of the season, Farias told her she was getting a reputation as a lazy player.

"I've stepped up a lot from last year," Smith said. "I realized that it's not going to get me anywhere. I look at Brittney (Lewis) and how she's focused all the time and that's changed my game."

And people have noticed.

"She was able to take a leading role up top," Lewis said. "She's always had the technical side of the game down, but this year the tactical side -- that's what's really matured in her game."

Lewis has also noticed a difference in all the younger (Green Devils. She can see the tradition growing inside them.

"It's beginning to come out," Lewis said.

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