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Central High School

Girls Soccer

Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:50 PM

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Last season, Springstead's vice grip on the county ranks was finally broken.

While the Lady Eagles went into rebuilding mode, Nature Coast rose to the top, making regionals for the first time and advancing to the Sweet 16.

On the eve of a new season, the Lady Sharks will set out to show that their 17-3-1 performance in 2011-12 was no fluke.

Head coach Lisa Masserio has 14 returning players on her roster, eight of them seniors and six of them All-County selections.

So Nature Coast has plenty of reason to feel it can put together another noteworthy campaign.

"I think on our list of priorities, we want to do well in the county matches," Masserio said. "I think Springstead has a pretty strong team this year. I'm looking for those games to be good preparation for the postseason.

"And the thing that's still out there for us, winning a district championship. We have the talent in place. We just need to bring it together."

Returnees for the Lady Sharks, who were Class 3A, District 6 runners-up to Eustis last season, include reigning Hernando Today Player of the Year Samantha Oliveira, a goalkeeper in her junior year.

Then there's senior midfielder Emily Myers, the county's defending scoring champion who totaled county high's of 20 goals and 11 assists as a junior.

Teammate Silvana Paonessa, a senior forward, was third in the county with 39 points, on 17 goals and five assists. Junior forward Hailey Lalande was sixth (11 goals, eight assists for 30 points).

Those four were all on the All-County squad, along with two defenders, junior Rose Witherell and senior Victoria Wall.

The Lady Sharks did graduate a couple of All-County picks in forward Nicole Brennan and midfielder Paige Kuhn.

Graduation claimed defenders Arianna Medina and Mallorie Pickersgill, as well, and filling those voids is Masserio's greatest concern.

Witherell and senior Brianna Baugher will be relied on carry the defense in front of Oliveira, one that permitted only 21 goals in 21 matches with 10 shutouts.

Ashley Chevalier, Makenzie Cummings and Jessika Salazar are back in the midfield, too.

"This year we want to set our sights on winning the district first, and certainly we want to see where we can go beyond that," Masserio said.

"From my first year as head coach, these (senior) girls were freshmen. It's kind of a special year for that reason, as well. This is my first class of graduating seniors."

Masserio stressed that staying in shape and avoiding injuries, as the Lady Sharks did most of last season, will be a key once again.

Nature Coast obviously doesn't want to lose any personnel as it tangles with Springstead within the county, and the likes of Eustis, Leesburg and Citrus in the district.

The Lady Panthers not only downed the Lady Sharks in the clash for the 3A-6 title, they send them home in the regional semifinals and went on to the Final Four.

"I have a lot of respect for their (Eustis) coach (Wayne Lockett) and what he does with that program," Masserio said. "I'm sure he has kids coming up fill the slots of the players who graduated. I'm sure he has the talent to fill those spots.

"I'm not expecting them to be in rebuilding mode. I expect them to be the toughest competition we face in the district."

Springstead finished 10-9-1 last season under first-year head coach Scott Wern, hardly terrible yet not up to past standards.

"I had big expectations and I think last year really humbled me," Wern said. "We went from a rebuilding stage and this year we're reloaded and ready to go."

The Lady Eagles did lose the county's second-leading scorer, Kimberly Smith, but added senior forward Tara Vasquez, a transfer from Central.

Vasquez had been the county's top scorer the previous two seasons at Springstead. In a tumultuous and abbreviated junior year with the Lady Bears, she ranked seventh in the county with 24 points (11 goals, two assists).

Wern also touted two freshmen, forward Samantha Betters and defender Alexis Cubillo.

Senior defenders Kirstin Penny, Kayla Montealegre and Renee Wern bring experience in front of another senior, keeper Emma Betters.

As a junior Betters notched six shutouts, and was an All-County selection along with Montealegre and Wern.

Montealegre is also the team's top returning scorer, having finished fourth in the county with 33 points (15 goals, three assists).

Right behind her was another returning Lady Eagle, junior midfielder Nicole Morolla, a repeat All-County pick who posted 11 goals and 10 assists as a sophomore.

Additionally back in the fold are a trio of midfielders, sophomore Erin Blackwell, senior Brittani Magrini and junior Haleigh McDuff.

"We're definitely well-balanced and have a lot more depth this season," Coach Wern said.

Plus Wern has brought on David Hayes, a former professional soccer player, as an assistant coach.

Blending all these elements, Coach Wern believes Springstead can challenge Lecanto for the 4A-4 championship, and go on to even greater things.

"Definitely we can be in the regional final this year," Coach Wern said. "There's no reason we can't do that. The talent is there and I think we'll surprise a lot of teams this year."

But Wern said he won't take Nature Coast for granted locally, though he's not particularly focused on reclaiming the county crown.

"My emphasis is for the girls to increase their knowledge of the game and become better players," he said. "If that gets us the title back, that's great."

The other county clubs, Central, Hernando and Weeki Wachee, are still trying to build up their respective programs. All, like Nature Coast, are part of 3A-6.

Ken Brening is not even a month into his tenure as Lady Bears (6-11-1 in 2011-12) headman, attempting to pull things together on the fly with a young group.

An electronics engineer for Mettler Toledo with 11 years experience coaching First Hernando Youth Soccer Club, he stepped in with the school desperate to fill its coaching vacancy. His daughter, Courtney, is a freshman on the team.

Senior midfielder Karissa DiMuccio is the leading scorer amongst the returnees, having tallied nine goals and three assists last season.

Sophomore Mackenzy Campbell and senior McKenzie Davis are back on defense, along with senior keeper Sarah Kaspars. Sophomore Lyndsey Palma returns as a midfielder.

"Get better every game and stay together as a team," Brening said of his outlook. "Cut down on the drama and be a team. Hopefully each year the team grows and gets better."

Hernando (8-11-1 in 2011-12) is struggling with numbers under veteran mentor Rick Ahrens.

Returnees Allie Ambrose, Ainsley Halliday, Bre Mobley and Summer Solovitch are expected to lead the Lady Leopards.

There are additionally two transfers, sophomore midfielder Erika Lewis, who arrived from Indiana, and junior midfielder Julie Jacobsen, a Danish foreign exchange student.

Ahrens feels his players' collective positive attitude will carry the team through tough times.

"Make it through safe and healthy," Ahren said of his goals. "It's hard right now when we've got 18-19 on the roster and at practices there's only 10-11 there because they're in other (fall) sports. It's hard to do anything.

"I'd like to end up in the middle of the district pack, .500, but you never know what's going to happen."

Weeki Wachee, 0-16 in its first varsity go-round, believes it can improve considerably in its second year with some newfound scoring punch.

One interesting addition is sophomore midfielder Alicia Drumheller, a transfer from Central who tallied 12 points (four goals, four assists) as a freshman for the Lady Bears.

"I definitely know we'll have a better season than last year," Weeki Wachee head coach Kim Jones said. "We're looking to take a few of the games in our own county.

"My goal this year is to walk away from the district tournament with four wins (on the season) under our belt. I guarantee we won't be seeded last like last year." (352) 544-5288

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