TAMPA — A loss and a tie — nothing too significant early in the boys soccer season.
But for Steinbrenner High coach Chad Ebright, a 2-1 loss to Newsome followed immediately by a 1-1 district draw against Plant in mid-November may have been just what the Warriors needed.
“We had a couple bumps early on — the loss to Newsome and the tie against Plant,” Ebright said. “But I think that just woke us up.
“I think the boys were expecting for teams to be able to beat us, but that has been the exact opposite as every team has come out there really wanting to beat us.”
Steinbrenner (6-1-1) has won three straight since the two November matches, topping all three of Class 5A-District 7’s Pinellas County teams and putting the Warriors atop the tough district, which also includes Plant and Alonso. Starting with a 3-2 victory against Palm Harbor on Nov. 19, Ebright said he could see his team come to life as it started to find a rhythm after replacing some key seniors from last year’s state runner-up squad.
“We’ve worked on the mental approach to the game and the last month, that has really started to come out,” Ebright said. “Coming out with the right mental approach has given us that little extra since those early games.”
Stepping up early to anchor the defense have been captains Noah Keene and Josh Rodriguez. On the offensive side, the team’s other captain, Blake Wilson, has had the impact expected, leading the Warriors with 10 goals.
“At the beginning of the year, I think we were still trying to get the right lineup together after what we lost to graduation,” Ebright said. “We were trying to fill voids and now I think we have all those guys in the right spot.”
A nice surprise for the offense has been the play of sophomore Andres Seanz, who has eight goals this year and like Wilson has scored four goals during the last three wins.
The Warriors have a tough challenge Friday as they host Sickles (7-2-1) before returning to district play against Alonso (3-3-1) on Tuesday.
Defense leading tough Durant
Veteran coach Dick Sheffield, who returned to the girls soccer sidelines after three years off, chuckled over the phone Wednesday, stating Durant’s solid start at 6-2 can be attributed to “talent,” adding “I wouldn’t put coaching first.”
Jokes aside, the talent the Cougars have this season — especially on the defensive side — has Durant drawing a lot of attention thus far.
The Cougars’ two losses were each by one goal to Lakeland Jenkins and Wharton, while the defense has allowed only four goals.
Standing out early has been veteran seniors Lexie Faliero and Sarah Coglianese anchoring the defense. Sheffield said his team has made very few adjustments on defense since the start of the season as juniors Morgan Jones and Ashley Piechowski and freshman sweeper Cat Headley have come together for the Cougars. The coach said his defense has solid ball-control skills and has no problem working its way into the Durant attack.
“All five of these defenders have unique skills as defenders,” Sheffield said. “We don’t just pound the ball out of the back, they settle, they distribute, they can beat you (one on one), so I think that makes a big difference.”
“They are not only involved on defense, but involved in the offense as well.”
Coglianese notched the deciding goal in Friday’s 1-0 win against Gaither, scoring on a long ball from 35 yards out.
Friday, the Cougars will host district leader Newsome, and Sheffield said his team will need to make the most of any chances afforded from another impressive defense, the Wolves being led by Karli Gutsche and Taylor McNeff.
“We need to take advantage of scoring chances when they arise,” Sheffield said. “It’ll be typical of any game; no matter how talented the defense is you have to make the most of any opportunities that come up.”