As fate would have it, Weeki Wachee senior Cody Robert Truman was not prepared for a simple switch – that eventually tilted his team's fortunes, and impacted his life, as well.
In team tryouts prior to this past season, first-year Hornet skipper Shane Tarbox asked his prospective players if there was "anybody who wanted to play keeper?"
With last year's keeper within a couple strides of his voice, there were no takers.
Again Tarbox repeated the question and this time a reply stunned the fellas, "Hey, coach put Cody (Truman) in there."
Before the 5-foot-10, 136-pounder could put up any argument; Tarbox inserted Truman between the pipes.
Truman had never played in a varsity match as keeper.
"I was kind of in shock at first," recalled Truman.
But according to Coach Tarbox, there was "something about him."
Looking back, that slight move forever changed the Hornets' season, and resulted in Truman earning Hernando Today's Player of the Year selection.
The year before Weeki Wachee performed liked any typical first-year varsity team – raggedy. There was no true preseason training or conditioning, and baseball coach Patrick McHugh turned into a soccer mentor.
With little talent and inexperienced players, the end results weren't that unpredictable. The first-year program paid the price. In 18 subsequent matches, the Hornets dropped 18 tilts. Weeki Wachee was outscored by 80 goals, 92-12.
Offensively, the Hornets were blanked in half of their matches – including 8-0 in a Class 3A, District 6 quarterfinal against Citrus.
Before anyone casts dispersions on the Hornets, it may help to glance at a history lesson on other Hernando County programs.
In Nature Coast's first season in 2003-04 under Ron Lubosco, the Sharks finished 0-19-0 and were outscored by 121 goals, 128-7.
Central soccer opened with 11 losing seasons among their first 12 campaigns. The bright spot was head coach Mark Weaver's 1995-96 squad going 7-7-1.
The county's oldest soccer program, Hernando High, began playing three years before Springstead in 1978-79. In that inaugural season, Hernando went winless at 0-6-0.
In 35 winters, the Leopards have etched two winning campaigns (6 percent) – and none across the last 27 seasons.
Truman gradually got the hang of it and helped lift the spirits and the entire play of the Hornets. He served as the teeth for the defensive-minded style Coach Tarbox was yearning to play.
Truman's aggressive style led the Hornets to one of the North Suncoast's biggest turnarounds. Weeki Wachee just missed a winning campaign and settled at .500 at 7-7-5, dropping a heartbreaking 3A-6 quarterfinal in penalty kicks to Tavares, 4-3 (5-3 in PKs).
Fans and coaches alike noted the Hornet turnaround. They were no longer looked at as laughingstocks or cupcakes.
Many credited Tarbox, who was unanimously voted by his peers as Hernando Today's Coach of the Year.
Meanwhile, Truman's insertion between the pipes helped the Hornets reduce the number of goals allowed from 92 to 28. In 10 of the Hornets' 19 matches this winter, the Truman-led defense yielded a goal or less featuring a school-record six shutouts.
In a year were county champion Springstead had three different players nominated for POY, Truman was eventually voted in.
"Their keeper (Truman) was unbelievable. He deserves the credit," pointed out Nature Coast's fourth-year skipper Ian Wald. "He kept them in every match.
"On every team you need your keeper to step up. Well, Cody (Truman) came up huge time and time again. Their defense would allow shot after shot, but Cody would stand his ground."
"His (senior) season started off kind of slow until he accepted his new role. After he began to dig in, the results started showing on the field," explained Coach Tarbox.
"I can't remember all the shots he stopped against Citrus (Dec. 7's spectacular 1-0 upset); he was in the zone," Tarbox said. "His strength lies in his reactions, especially on point-blank shots.
"He played a great role communicating with the other defenders. … He directed traffic and was good in the air.
"Can he play at the next level? I think he could, if he practiced it."
In turn, Truman praised Coach Tarbox for his team's resurgence.
"The first thing coach did was set higher goals," noted Truman. "Last year, we seemed to all go through the motions at practice and then the games. This year, we all anticipated practice."
Truman stressed the Hornets' goal was clear-cut.
"Coach (Tarbox) knew what our goal was and that was my goal," he said. "It trickled down to everybody. The expectations were higher. We not only were going to have a winning season, but we were all going to play with heart."
Reacting to the POY announcement, "I still can't believe it," he said. "Maybe it's because I've come so far. With so many great players here in the county, I'm lucky to be appreciated for what I did. I'm still shocked at getting it."
Truman was born the youngest of three boys to Dave and Allyson Truman in Cape Coral.
The Truman family has called Spring Hill home for the past 11 years.
Having brothers has its advantages. Truman has been involved in athletics since he was waist high.
In Fort Myers, Truman played competitive soccer beginning at 5 years old.
Once his family relocated to Hernando County, Truman branched out and played several sports.
He played recreational football for the West Hernando Cougars, playing quarterback and free safety.
In middle school, he played guard in sixth grade at Fox Chapel.
After transferring to J.D. Floyd, Truman played basketball and tennis as a seventh- and eighth-grader.
Upon matriculating to Central, he played JV soccer as a freshman before being called up to the varsity. He mostly played forward and midfield.
He also played JV football before being promoted to the varsity squad.
As a sophomore, he switched between cornerback and free safety on the varsity and saw action on the pitch as a forward/midfielder.
He transferred to Weeki Wachee prior to his junior year. He totaled one assist on the season.
Despite his diverse athletic background, Truman has one love.
"Basically I did football because of a bet with my best friend," he recalled. "I did it on a dare. The experience was all right."
"I did basketball in middle school because there's no soccer," he pointed out. "It helped me keep my grades up. I was always shooting hoops near the house anyway.
"Soccer is my favorite sport," said Truman. "It's like a family that has grown on me. I like the all-around competitiveness involved. To me, soccer is all about the competition and how much you have to love the sport."
On why the team played so much better this winter, "Our coach (Tarbox) encouraged us to play harder," said Truman. "I wouldn't blame what happened with our team as juniors on the players as much as the coach.
"When the new coach (Tarbox) came in, things got a lot more intense – for the better."
On how his senior season closed, "I went into districts wanting to win it," recalled Truman. "I'm not going to sit here and blame guys for what happened, especially in the first half. You learn that you win or lose together. To me, we should have beaten Springstead in that last regular season match (a 1-0 Eagle win) and Tavares.
"It was a great season overall, compared to last year," noted Truman. "We tried our best. Looking back, I felt like I could have tried a little harder."
On what made his job a little easier, "The guys in the line in front of me (including Justin Fowler, Chris Rosser, Dan. Dunn and Kylor Robers) trusted me," stressed Truman. "I made sure they played their positions.
"In the long run, the defense would come out victorious," recalled Truman. "There were a lot of shots that I didn't have to get. I'd credit that to a sense of pride. It wasn't about just one guy or a couple guys pulling their weight – it was all about each guy just taking care of their job and we all kind of fed off each other."
Truman vividly details his two best moments of the season.
"The game I can't forget was Citrus," he said. "I made something like 33 saves. It was intense. I remember a Citrus coach yelling, 'Guys, why can't we score?' That was motivation enough.
"The other match was against Central – against my old teammates," recalled Truman. "None of them expected me to be playing goalie. I think they all thought this guy is going to be easy to score on. That's the game were I saved a PK."
On the biggest improvements, "Our communication improved as the season went on," said Truman. "Communication is a huge part of playing team defense."
On what his future may hold, "I'd love to play soccer at the next level," said Truman, who carries a 2.6 grade point average, and would like to study being a registered nurse or a physical therapist.
Truman, who also works at McDonalds and Domino's Pizza, wanted to take a moment to thank a few folks.
"I have to thank my family. They've always been there for me. Even when I wanted to quit, they'd convince me not to," said Truman. "And ultimately I owe so much to my coaches, especially Coach Tarbox. He's the guy who motivated me to keep up my grades. He's the guy who is a big part of my success because he kept me on task."
By the Numbers: Weeki Wachee Boys Soccer
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
2011-12 Weeki Wachee Hornets
Head Coach: Patrick McHugh (1st Year: 0-18-0)
DATE OPPONENT SITE TIME
11-08 Brooksville-Nature Coast Technical*# Home L 1-4
11-10 Crystal River Home L 2-3
11-14 Spring Hill-Springstead* Home L 0-8
11-17 Inverness-Citrus Away L 1-5
11-29 Tavares# Away L 0-4
12-02 Brooksville-Central*# Home L 0-4
12-06 Eustis# Away L 1-6
12-09 Leesburg# Home L 0-6
12-13 Brooksville-Nature Coast Technical*# Away L 2-3
12-15 Hudson-Fivay Away L 1-9
12-16 Brooksville-Hernando* Home L 2-3
12-19 Brooksville-Central* Away L 0-3
01-09 Spring Hill-Springstead* Away L 0-8
01-10 Inverness-Citrus# Home L 0-3
01-12 Brooksville-Hernando*# Away L 1-4
01-17 New Port Richey-River Ridge Home L 1-4
01-20 Crystal River Away L 0-7
01-24 Inverness-Citrus+ Away L 0-8
# Denotes 3A-6 match
* Denotes Hernando County match
+ Denotes 3A-6 quarterfinal @ Inverness-Citrus
2012-13 Weeki Wachee Hornets
Head Coach: Shane Tarbox (1st Year: 7-7-5)
DATE OPPONENT SITE RESULT
11-05 Wesley Chapel Away L 0-1
11-12 Brooksville-Central*# Away W 4-1
11-14 Spring Hill-Springstead* Away L 0-3
11-16 Eustis# Home T 2-2
11-27 Leesburg# Away L 1-4
11-30 Brooksville-Nature Coast Technical*# Home L 3-4
12-04 Tavares# Home W 1-0
12-07 Inverness-Citrus# Away W 1-0
12-11 Brooksville-Hernando*# Home T 3-3
12-14 Brooksville-Hernando* Home T 0-0
12-20 Hudson-Fivay Away T 1-1
12-21 Brooksville-Central* Home W 1-0
01-04 Holiday-Anclote Away W 4-0
01-09 Lecanto Home W 1-0
01-11 Brooksville-Nature Coast Technical* Away W 3-2
01-14 Wesley Chapel Home T 1-1
01-17 Hudson-Fivay Home L 0-1
01-18 Spring Hill-Springstead* Home L 0-1
01-22 Tavares^ Away L 3-4 (3-5 PKs).
# Denotes 3A-6 match.
* Denotes Hernando County match.
^ Denotes 3A-6 Tourney @ Brooksville-Nature Coast Technical.