Photography by ALICE MARY HERDEN
“We want to get stronger,” said Coach Crawford.
Since 2014, Hernando Christian Academy (HCA) boys soccer team has struggled to fill the roster in order to compete within their district, but thankfully the girls stepped in to fill the empty spots.
Hernando Christian Academy is the only boys’ soccer team that is eligible to have both boys and girls on their roster in Hernando County.
According to the FHSAA rules which has been in effect for over a decade:
8.6 PARTICIPATION BY GENDER
8.6.1 -Girls on Boys’ Teams. Girls may play on a boys’ team in a sport if the school does not sponsor a girls’ team in that sport.
8.6.2 Boys on Girls’ Teams. Boys may not participate on a girls’ team in any sport if the school’s overall boys’ athletic program equals or exceeds the girls’ overall athletic program.
8.6.3 Mixed Gender Teams. Team sports that have both boys and girls are required to compete in the boys division in that sport.
8.6.4 Florida High School State Championship Series. In an individual sport, girls may not participate on boys’ teams in the Florida High School State Championship Series when a sport is offered in the Florida High School State Championship Series for girls.
Soccer is one of the most physically demanding sports that requires endurance, speed as well as agility.
The girls on the HCA roster include:
7th grader Peyton Meyers, 8th grader Alyssa Lechugga, 6th grader Natalie Lechugga, senior Leah Grant, senior Elyse Maurette, Junior Audrey Woods, freshman Jayden Oring and 8th grader Isabella Oring.
Sisters Isabella and Jayden Oring are playing their first soccer season and share their experience thus far,
“It’s good, it is harder but I like to play harder,” Jayden Orning said. “I think girls can do what boys can do.”
“I have to go out there with positive attitude and toughen through,” Isabella Orning said.
Coach Crawford may have suspected there was no coming back after the first half against Seven Rivers, but that didn’t let the team feel they were defeated. Crawford took this opportunity to move players around and showcase the players’ abilities.
“We are already down, let’s move the players around and see what works and actually moving the players around we kind of found that we have a better defensive if we put these players here and here,” Crawford said. “That’s the coaching aspect that comes from me, because you have to find what works.”
The Lions took on Seven Rivers Christian Academy Tuesday after a tough loss against Academy at the Lakes (1-5) Monday. Seven Rivers dominated the Lions home field- closing out the 2nd half early with an 8-0 win over HCA.
After just one day of practice in between games, HCA battled on their home field once again to face Universal Academy who are 5-1 this season, the Lions had to defend the territory more aggressively.
“They were very aggressive, very good with passing, but they were off side a few times so that worked to our advantage,” Elyse Maurette said. “[Our] defense really had to work hard at this game.”
Universal Academy dominated the goals in the first half and there were some great saves by goalkeeper Earl Rich. The second half Coach Crawford pulled Evan Klukowski off the field to play goalkeeper. He blocked several goal attempts from the Falcons, however two goals made their win.
Overall the girls showed team strength and their defensive skills progressed from the previous game against Seven Rivers.
“Definitely more control over the ball,” Leah Grant said. “That is really what determines what happens and who wins the game.”
“Today I think the game went great, we did a lot of passing, one touch and two touch passes. We talked a lot and we were able to get the ball to the other side and almost score, and I thought that was great,” said Alyssa Lechugga
“I thought we played as a team, we did exceptional,” Peyton Meyers remarked. “I am proud of the way we worked together.”
Not only did the girls see the difference they did on the field against Universal Academy, but the coach did as well.
“I am really psyched that the fact they played tonight the first half was the best half we have played together.” Jeremy Crawford said. Crawford going into his 7th season as head soccer coach for HCA.
“This year we have more girls than any other year and you can see they are tough,” Crawford said. “We got some girls on there and Jayden is one of them that definitely holds her own and thensome,” Crawford said.
“The way I grew up playing, I grew up playing English style soccer. That is how I know the game- so I coach that way,”Crawford explained. “There really isn’t any difference in training whether they are girls or boys, it's the same.”
With this team in particular they are very new, some players haven’t played soccer before. Additionally, their top player, Senior Logan Wilhelm has sustained injuries and is out for another week. This creates a fresh approach in their game plans.
“We’ve talked about the season, we know it's going to be a rough season,” Crawford said. “You’re going have some competitive games, you're gonna have games that you get blown out.”
Keeping skills and player field communication in the forefront is key to reaching that one goal; to play in the districts.
“The whole season is for that one game, that’s your first game in districts. It doesn’t matter if you’re 0-20, you still get to go play in the playoffs,” Crawford said. “That's what you’re aiming for...when you get to that game- be the best that you possibly can be in order to give that other team the best game that you can.”
Season update: On Saturday December 8, HCA lost to Seffner Christian 8-0.
The lions take on Bayshore Christian December 13, and Carrollwood Day the following day before the holiday break.