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Pasco's experience runs deep

Most of the Pirates have been competitive for years, an asset as they enter districts.

Published January 22, 2006

DADE CITY - Don't cry for Barry Grayling, who in his first two seasons coached Pasco to two-win and five-win seasons.

Now, in his fourth season, the Pirates have a school-record 18 wins and are eyeing a third straight district title.

So, how did things turn around so quickly?

"Just new players coming in and things changed," Grayling said. "It's been a slow progression, but we knew this year would be a lot better because we knew who we had."

The Pirates roster includes 15 varsity and 12 junior varsity players who have played at the club level on an East Pasco program formerly run by Pasco assistant Warren Lowery.

"Some of them started on the first (East Pasco) travel team eight years ago," Lowery said. "Those are the ones we have at the high school now. That's probably been the biggest difference."

Added Grayling: "If you don't have these kids playing competitive (soccer) it's not going to get any better."

Coming up through the ranks of a competitive program in East Pasco was unheard of on the previous record-setting Pasco team. In 1997-98, the Pirates went 13-13-2 and reached the region semifinals.

At 18-1-1, this squad has loftier goals. The state tournament is something Grayling rarely speaks of, but he feels this team is much better than the 2003-04 squad that won five games, including three in the postseason; and last season's group that won 10 and made it back-to-back region semifinal appearances.

Oh, and the Pirates enter the postseason with the Sunshine Athletic Conference championship and a bye as the top seed in the Class 4A, District 8 tournament at Zephyrhills.

"Progress is being made," Grayling said. "That's a rewarding thing."

More rewards await the Pirates, who are 11-1 in the district. Right behind them is Springstead, 10-2 in 4A-8, and Gulf (7-5), who also have winning records in the district.

Pasco and Springstead are the only teams to have played with any consistency, but Zephyrhills coach Dave Wilson said any of the others could steal one of two playoff spots by peaking at the right time.

"Pasco and Springstead have played well," Wilson said, "but (seeds) four through seven, we're all so close. Those game could be anybody."

Grayling knows first-hand how anything can happen since his team's lone defeat was 4-3 to Hudson, which sports a 4-7-1 district mark. And the Pirates had a 1-all tie with Mitchell, 1-4 in 6A-7.

Pasco's domination this season is reflected in its goal totals - 77 for, 22 against. The offense relies on a trio of forward/midfielders. Joe Montelongo is the leader with 30 goals and 77 points. He is followed by Roberto Cervantes (19 goals, 51 points) and Garibalde Alejandre (13, 31).

The last line of defense is third-year starting goalkeeper Luis Hernandez, with a 1.00 goals-against average with two shutouts. And backup Fidel Torres has a shutout.

Two other players have contributed by fortifying the midfield. The Sumner twins, Cody and Trent, who last season as freshmen played on the JV team, each have three goals and four assists.

"They're good, strong workers on each side," Grayling said of his midfielders who also play club soccer. "They slotted in real well."

[Last modified January 22, 2006, 01:02:19]

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