By Kyle LoJacono
LUTZ — High school teams are not meant to win district championships or playoff games in their first year, but the Steinbrenner High School girls soccer team decided to be a little different.
Instead of struggling through difficult first seasons, the Warriors (17-2-1) went undefeated in the regular season, took home the Class 4A, District 9 title and won the first playoff game in school history.
“It shows that they’re a very talented group of young women,” said Steinbrenner coach Teresa Patterson on having a perfect regular season. “They should be very proud of how they are working to make a name for Steinbrenner High School as a girls soccer powerhouse.”
Steinbrenner had a lot of firsts in its first year, but another first ended its season — their first loss which came in the regional semifinals to Lakewood Ranch High School.
The season did not end the way the Warriors wanted it to, but few thought they would get as far as they did without any seniors.
“Our juniors have really helped us younger players get better,” said freshman midfielder Alexis Bredeau. “They listened to coach Patterson and set a good example for the younger players.”
The Warriors had very little experience in terms of upperclassmen, but many of them have played together on the club team called Hillsborough County United.
“We already knew what each other was going to do even before we started practicing this year,” said freshman midfielder Marley Opila. “It made things a lot easier.”
Even though the team was familiar with each other before the season, it took Patterson’s methods to bring them together.
“She really likes to work on team bonding,” Bredeau said. “She would have us watch game film at each others houses so that we were together.”
Opila agreed with her teammate.
“She’s very dedicated and wants to get the most out of us,” she said. “Even in games where we had a big lead she wanted us to work on the things we were weak at to get better.”
Patterson coached at Gaiter High School for one season before starting the soccer program at Steinbrenner and is no stranger to starting a team from scratch. She was also the first coach at Marshall University and an assistant on the first team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“We were very fortunate to have talent on both sides of the ball,” Patterson said. “We had 14 shutouts, and you know your doing something right if you do that. Most of our backline are juniors, and they really set the tone for us by playing such great defense. I like to say our juniors lead from the backline.”
The Warriors allowed only eight goals this season including playoffs, while scoring 115.
On the offensive side of the ball, Steinbrenner had four players with more than 10 goals.
“Our offense was able to take a lot more chances because they knew the defense would be solid behind them,” Patterson said. “When you have a defense you trust, the offense can take more chances and it makes them more dangerous.”
The Warriors double-digit goal scorers included Cici Gonzalez with 29, Bredeau with 23, Taylor Valley with 18 and Opila with 16.
There were few down points for the Warriors, but their season did not end as they wanted. After defeating Palmetto High School in the 4A regional quarterfinals, they were beaten by Lakewood Ranch 2-1.
“It was really cool to have the first regional playoff win in school history,” Bredeau said. “No one else can ever say that.”
Opila had the lone score for Steinbrenner against Lakewood Ranch.
“It was a privilege to score the only goal in that game,” she said. “I don’t score all that much, so it was big for me.”
There were many high points for the young squad, but the Sarasota Holiday Classic tournament stood out.
“Winning that tournament was really big for us because it’s always a confidence boost to put a trophy in the school’s trophy case,” Patterson said. “That’s what we want to do is fill up the trophy case.”
The one advantage of being young is everyone will be coming back to the team next season with added experience.
“We’ll have to get together next year and set more goals for ourselves,” Patterson said. “We’d like to have a more competitive schedule outside of our district next year, and I’m hoping some of the bigger schools in the area will lobby to get us on their schedule. We’re ready to show the big schools what we can do.”
- Player Year Position
- Alexis Bredeau Fr. M
- Sarah Demarco Fr. M
- Allison Micciche Fr. M
- Lauren Garris Fr. F
- Sam Kay Fr. M
- Kaitlyn Huntzinger Jr. D
- Megan Laughlin Fr. D
- Carly Keene Jr. D
- Kelsey Huntzinger Fr. M
- Melissa Stankovich So. GK
- Courtney Keene Jr. GK
- Jessica Weatherman Fr. GK
- Morgan Melatti Fr. M
- Kelly Kay Jr. M
- Lauren Laughlin Jr. D
- Andrea Hess So. F
- Cici Gonzalez So. F
- Taylor Valley So. F
- Marley Opila Fr. M
- Sidney Vitale Fr. D
- Marissa Maries Jr. M
- Jordan Oyakhilome Jr. M
- Sarah Eppler So. F
- Nicole Hollifield Fr. D
- Heather Zweben So. D