Girls soccer: A trying season

Pasco has a winning record despite inexperience and injuries. More tests await.

By Izzy Gould
Published December 7, 2007

DADE CITY - The apathy in Wardell Powell's voice reflects the wear of the season. Somehow, Pasco has a winning record entering tonight's home match against Nature Coast.

The Pirates 6-5 have won two straight, outscoring their opponents by a combined 10-0. Pirates senior Cassi Hill said she was frustrated because a 7-0 win against Hernando on Wednesday should have ended sooner. The Pirates hit the crossbar three times, a common theme of not finishing games. But Powell, who has coached the Pirates five seasons, knows the true tests lie ahead.

"When you look at Wiregrass (Ranch) and Hernando, they are weaker teams," Powell said. "Until we consistently beat Hudson, Gulf or Zephyrhills, you have to still wonder. Is that really a gauge? I'm not sure."

Powell has spent the first half of the season tinkering. He's starting three freshmen and has had three goalkeepers because of injuries.

Pasco began the season 4-1, then came a stretch of four straight losses, including 1-0 shutouts by Hudson and Springstead and a 5-0 loss to Gulf.

Three of the four losses came within a five-day span to close out November, prompting Powell to note the lack of practice time with three games in one week, a common complaint of high school soccer and basketball coaches.

The loss of practice time often has a greater impact on less experienced teams because those players are adjusting to varsity. When there are consecutive days of practice, it's often difficult to get the entire team there.

"Kids are working," Powell said of after-school jobs. "That's been a problem. The lack of practice is just one of our problems."

Another problem has been inexperience. Although the Pirates have four juniors, including Leeann Eble - sidelined for almost two months with ligament damage in an ankle - they have just one senior in Hill. Their leading scorer is sophomore Rachel Shields (eight goals), and the defense has been reconfigured with freshmen playing at least two key spots. Starting keeper Hannah Stephens is relearning the position after stepping away from net for seven years. That has been made more difficult because of a kick in her face this week. Powell hopes she can return tonight, though that's Stephens' call. Powell said she has headaches and until they go away she cannot play.

Then there's the inexperience in the back with Teresa Christmas playing right back and Jessica Montelongo at stopper. Both are freshmen.

"Injuries have played a big role," Hill said. "It seems we have one person healthy, and then another person goes down. We've just been moving players to positions they don't play. That's probably why we had that losing streak. I'm hoping players will step it up and be universal."

The Pirates have 10 games remaining, beginning with the 8-6 Sharks. Next week, it's Hudson then Gulf on Dec. 19.

"Every game we lost this year I feel like we could have won," Hill said. "If we had everyone, we could be first in our district."

Izzy Gould can be reached at izzygould@gmail.com or (727) 580-5315.