Tampa Prep girls focused on 2A soccer final

By BRYAN BURNS, Times Staff Writer
Published February 9, 2008

FORT LAUDERDALE - Tampa Prep coach Pam Smith admitted jitters might have played a role in her young team allowing two first-half goals to Orangewood Christian in the Terrapins' come-from-behind 5-3 semifinal victory Thursday.

Which is understandable, considering the last time Tampa Prep advanced to the final four was 1996.

"For this group of girls, it's their first time down (here)," Smith said. "The other teams (in the Class 2A final four) have been here the last two years."

So, how will Tampa Prep's nerves fare in today's final against undefeated American Heritage, winners of six titles and rated No. 1 nationally according to the NSCAA/Adidas rankings, with the opportunity to capture the school's first state championship on the line?

"I'm not that nervous," junior forward Paige Goodwin said. "I've never really seen them play. We're going to come out strong. They might be the better team there, but we want it more."

Sitting in the bleachers before its game with Orangewood, Tampa Prep took in a portion of American Heritage's 1-0 victory in double overtime against St. Johns Country Day. Other than that brief scouting session, the Terrapins aren't really sure what to expect from Heritage.

"I don't know much about them. I know they're nationally ranked No. 1. I don't want to know too much about them," Smith said jokingly.

Instead, Smith would rather focus on what her players need to do to win rather than the opposition on the other side of the field.

"We'll come out and just play our game," she said. "I can't play their game. ... We know how to play our game best, and that's what we're going to do."

The matchup

Class 2A: Tampa Prep (25-1-1) vs. American Heritage (31-0), noon today. Lockhart Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, $8 admission.

American Heritage facts: More than half of the Stallions' roster is made up of seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders. Forward Stacey Payne and midfielder Olivia Elias, both starters, are the only seniors. American Heritage's run of three straight state titles was broken last year with a 5-0 loss to St. Johns Country Day.

American Heritage players to watch: Payne has a team-leading 37 goals and 22 assists, and she holds the school's single-season scoring record, breaking the previous mark of 36 goals. Sophomore keeper Samantha Perretty, at 5 feet 11, has allowed just nine goals in 29 games (0.31 GAA).