tampabay.com

Wolves find success early

By KEITH NIEBUHR
Published February 15, 2005


LITHIA - For the Newsome girls team, the realization it had great potential came last season. Not during a win, mind you. Or even a loss. In fact, it came when the Wolves weren't even playing.

"When Tarpon Springs won state, a team we lost to 1-0 in the region finals, the girls knew how close they were," Newsome coach Kathy Dodd said.

Now the Wolves are even closer.

One more victory, and Newsome (14-3-1), a second-year program that defeated Freedom 4-1 on Friday, plays for the Class 4A title. Two more, and the trophy is headed to Hillsborough County.

Of course, it won't be easy. First up is a state semifinal at noon Wednesday against Ponte Vedra Nease (25-2-1) in Fort Lauderdale.

"We're all just really excited," said senior midfielder Danielle Joyce, a captain.

No matter how you look at it, Newsome's rapid rise is impressive. The local club scene was known for producing quality players, but how many good ones would land at Newsome?

Further, how long would it take to develop the chemistry needed?

"I didn't know what to expect," said Dodd, a longtime club coach.

The answers came quickly.

Though young, the Wolves went 14-2-2 last season with a lineup that included no seniors and seven freshman starters. But it wasn't just the talent that impressed the coach.

"They all got along," Dodd said. "And that's not always the case. Sometimes, it can get nasty."

This season, the talent level has risen. Practices are intense, and playing time isn't easily earned. And yet the chemistry has remained strong.

"We're all competitive, but it's like a big family," freshman forward Megan Foley said.

The Wolves are still young.

Wednesday, the starting lineup will include two seniors and one junior. Nobody knows what to expect. Some players admitted to being a little nervous, but that's nothing new, they say.

"We get jittery before all the games," Foley said.

Above all else, the Wolves know anything can happen at state. They learned that from Tarpon Springs.

"Can we win?" Dodd said. "Absolutely."

--Keith Niebuhr can be reached at 813 226-3350 or online at niebuhr@sptimes.com