Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lady Spartan Soccer Team Starts Season Strong, Aims to Defend Title

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lady Spartan Soccer Team Starts Season Strong, Aims to Defend Title

Article excerpt

Byline: Brent Beaird

The St. Johns Country Day girls soccer team (9-1-1) is well on its way to defending its state title.

Even though the Lady Spartans tied Episcopal and lost by a goal to powerhouse Nease, coach Mike Pickett said he is pleased with the early season results.

"The Nease game was going to be our measuring stick halfway through the season and of course they are returning eight starters off their state championship team," Pickett said. "I believe they are better than they were last year. To lose 2-1 to one of the top three teams in the state is very positive for my young girls."

St. Johns returns six starters and plenty of young talent. Pickett said the preseason running program had record numbers of participants. Some of the girls have just recently joined the team after participating in other sports.

"We had a bunch [of returning players] in volleyball, cross-country and swimming, so I haven't even had a full team in practice," he said.

Already the team has prevailed through early adversity. Starting goalkeeper Brooke Chancey broke her foot the week before the season started. Seventh-grader Haley Flynn replaced her and responded with seven shutouts.

"She [Haley] is a physical, young girl," Pickett said. "She is fearless. She plays like our older girls."

Chancey is not expected to return until after Christmas, but by then only four games will be left on the schedule before the playoffs begin. Pickett said Flynn would return to the field after Chancey is back at goalkeeper.

Several players are among the leaders in scoring this season. Junior Amanda Martorana leads the Spartans with 16 goals and eight assists. Sophomore Georgia Libert has 13 goals and eight assists, junior Molly Richardson has 11 goals and 10 assists and eighth-grader Kara Moore has four goals and 13 assists. Pickett has emphasized winning with defense unlike in the past few years when the Spartans were able to outscore most of their opponents.

"This year we refocused on defending," Pickett said. "I have a veteran crowd back there led by senior Kristin Weaver, who is in her sixth year of varsity soccer. We have given up only four goals in 11 games and recorded eight shutouts."

St. Johns has already clinched a birth in the playoffs by winning its three-team district. The Spartans' undefeated district record automatically qualifies them for the district final game.

Looking beyond district play, the Spartans have to once again beat longtime nemesis Gainesville Oak Hall and Tallahassee Maclay in order to reach the final four. "We've had good success in girls soccer against both teams," Pickett said. "Our all-time record against Oak Hall is 21-4 and against Maclay, we are 9-5. Already this season, St. Johns has beaten Maclay, 2-1, and Oak Hall, 2-0. …

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