Photo by Alice Mary Herden
In what is, in this coach’s opinion, an unfairly balanced soccer season in comparison to some other sports as we only get 3 weeks to train players on how to play soccer – The season essentially gets split into two parts.
We have the first half, with the bulk of competitive District games prior to the Christmas break. After Christmas we ‘clean up’ the remaining fixtures, any cancellations to weather and then head into some non-district fixtures before playing a District tournament.
The tournament seeding is set from the regular season games and is then in a play off, one game, win or lose set up.
The losers at Districts have their season ended that very night, the winner’s march on to the next round. Those that make the District final will find themselves playing a Regional game the following week.
Here we take a look at each of the Hernando School’s outlook for the 2019 remaining games and District tournament.
The Hernando High School boy’s teams, on paper, are a strong team that has over the past two seasons been turning around their fortunes. You look back to years past and ‘blow out’ 8-0 score lines were a regular feature for the team. While the score lines have certainly been changing, the results this season have been somewhat disappointing for the Leopards. They currently find themselves second from bottom in the league with a ‘winner takes all’ fixture coming up against Weeki Wachee in the first week of January. This fixture could well decide who finishes 5th and 6th in the current season, which could well change the outcome of their season at the end. With Hernando still to face Wesley Chapel at home (following a narrow, last minute 2-1 defeat away last month) it will be an important close to the season.
“It’s going to be a tense last few games for the team, I do believe that as the mentality of this team changes, the results will come. It has taken longer than we would have liked, but surely our luck has to change soon. With refereeing decisions costing us goals and games at times this season, one can only hope that the standard improves as the season goes on,” commented Coach Stone.
On the Girls’ side, Coach Shrader has his team sitting on a 3-5 District record following back to back wins against Springstead as well as a home 4-0 drubbing of Zephyrhills. Pasco are the next team that they face on the road and following a late 5-4 loss to them at home back on Dec. 3, the ladies will be hoping that their form at the end of 2018 (beating Central 1-0) will continue as they look to turn that around and leave themselves with a favorable bracket in the District tournament.
With just 4 District games to go before they close out District fixtures the coach will be looking to build momentum in those vital 2 non-district games against Central and South Sumter as he builds up to the opening District game on Friday Jan. 25- The Ladies District tournament taking place at Wesley Chapel.
The Nature Coast boys are sitting pretty at the top of their District following a great 2018. They opened the District with 5 wins before being held to a 2-2 tie on the road at Pasco. With Pasco and the Sharks mirroring each other’s results, the real battle for District Number 1 could well be decided on Jan. 16 when these two powerhouses face off against one another. Will it be Vinny Stulec (Sr) or Tony Howard (Jr) the teams two main goal scorers, who bring out the best in The Sharks?
They have started 2019 with 3 non-district encounters against Silkies and Middleton (Tampa Bay Invitational Tournament) and Lakeland – losing all three games. Could this affect the morale and performances as District play resumes?
The Ladies sit behind a 6-2-1 District in 2018. That has left them being able to decide their fate in the final games of the season. With District encounters against Springstead, Wesley Chapel and Pasco to close out 2019. A repeat performance will leave them with a comfortable seeding as they enter the District tournament and allow them to play one of the weaker teams in the first round.
With new management came a new outlook at Springstead and with the team currently sitting on a 4-4 record and in 4th place in the District standings, they will be looking to close out on a high. With Coach Leko seemingly building an organized team from the back, it will be this that is put to the test as they come up against the Districts two powerhouses in Pasco and Nature Coast before the season’s end. They close up the fixtures at Zephyrhills and a win there could build steam as they take on 4 non-district opponents before they open the District Campaign on Monday Jan. 28 at Hernando High School.
Sprinstead's Ladies meanwhile are not getting the rub of the green. Unable to win a game in the District so far, they will be hoping that a 4-2 victory against South Sumter just before the break gets the wins flowing – they face Pasco at the start of 2019.
With Coach Tarbox’s team currently sitting one game ahead of the Leopards of Hernando in 5th place the opening 2019 home game against them will be of high importance for the coach. A win here should solidify not finishing any lower than 5th and having a much more favorable path through the District tournament. Following this opening game, comes two games in quick succession with a trip to Zephyrhills followed up by a home encounter against Wesley Chapel to close out the season.
With just one non-district game scheduled against Central before the District tournament could the team be fresh or ‘out of practice’ prior to that District opener on the 28th?
The Weeki Wachee girls have had mixed fortunes in 2018 with 4 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses in District play leaving them sitting mid table as 2019 comes around. Coach Fierro will be banking on the pre Christmas 3-0 victor against Springstead to be firmly in his players’ minds when they travel to Hernando and open 2019. With District encounters still to come against Zephyrhills (twice), those two fixtures will have a huge importance on who they face in the District tournament.
Coach Brooks at Central works so hard to keep the team going that it is a total injustice that the results never seem to go his way. However a 3-0 win against Bishop McLaughlin closed out 2018 for his team and the opener at Umatilla in early January could well set them on a path for a successful 2019. Central has upset the odds before in district play previously when being the last seed, overcoming and beating the number 1 team. Coach Brooks’ work and effort into the team should stand a chance of being rewarded with that same success again.
Coach Brening leads the girls to a 3-5-1 record in 2018 and with a reduced 17 game schedule for the season, they have just the 8 games before they enter District play. They will be hoping to return the favor to Hernando in 2019 following a narrow 1-0 defeat at the end of 2018. They currently sit 3rd in the District and will be expecting to face up against Umatilla in the first round of the District tournament. They also open 2019 against the Bulldogs in what could well be a dress rehearsal for the final tournament.
Hernando Christian Academy
The Hernando Christian Academy team behind coach Crawford are sitting on a 1-6 record, with the opening day win against St John Lutheran seemingly a lifetime ago. However they look to turn fortunes around as they open 2019 against a Bishop McLaughin side currently down on their luck behind a 0-2-1 district record.
The team will go up against St John Lutheran again at the end of the regular season before they face across town rivals the Hernando Leopards in a non-district encounter and then head off to the District Tournament.