By Kyle LoJacono
The Carrollwood Day School (CDS) girls soccer team has raced out to a 7-2 start this season, making a playoff berth a real possibility for the first time in the program’s four-year history.
The Patriots have already matched their win total from last year when they went 7-7-2 and reached the district semifinals, but were knocked out of postseason contention by Tampa Prep one game shy of qualifying for regionals.
The stinging loss to the Terrapins is a distant memory to the returning CDS players, and in its place is a growing excitement for what is possible this season.
“I knew this was going to be our best team yet since I’ve been here, but I didn’t think we’d be this good,” said senior midfielder Taylor Tippett, who has been on the team since it started four years ago. “Our biggest accomplishment was we started 3-0 and now we’ve won a lot more games. We’ve all been working very hard and improved over the years.”
Tippett, who will be inking her name to a letter of intent with the University of South Florida on National Signing Day in February, said the players didn’t do anything new preparing for the year.
“I don’t know why it’s different,” Tippett said. “Maybe it’s just having played together for several years with the same coach. We were all excited coming into the season and more confident than in the past.”
That “same coach” is Donna Holyman, who started the program in 2008, the same year the current group of Patriots seniors were freshmen. Her squad is senior laden, with seven of the 15 players being 12th-graders.
“We have a really good group of seniors who have been here since the program started,” Holyman said. “They know what’s expected of them and have done a really good job of leading the rest of the girls. We also have some newcomers and even an eighth-grader playing too.”
One of those seniors is goalkeeper Maddie Peek.
“It’s really surreal being here from the very beginning and seeing how much progress we’ve had,” Peek said, who has allowed five goals all season.
Peek had some experience at goalkeeper before high school, but had played forward for CDS until the Patriots lost their starter last season. She filled in and now enjoys the position so much she wants to stick with it.
“Maybe it’s the drama that I like so much,” said Peek. “I gave coach kind of a joking ultimatum over the summer saying I would not play unless I’m the keeper.”
Also contributing to CDS’ lockdown defense is sophomore Alex Schweitzer.
“We haven’t had this so far and it’s a great feeling to know we have a strong defense,” Schweitzer said. “People talk about us now and that’s kind of a first.”
Schweitzer is a defender, but she has also recorded nine goals and three assists. Tippett has tallied 13 goals and five assists. Eighth-grader midfielder Carli Gauthier has added a trio of scores while adding four assists.
The players and coaches are enjoying the fast start to the season, but such success is also offering challenges they have never faced before.
“One thing I’ve never had to deal with before was keeping these players grounded,” Holyman said. “That’s going to be our big thing is to not expect to stroll onto the field and win without trying.”
The Patriots got a bit of a reality check in a recent game against Seffner Christian, a squad with a just two wins.
“We need to make sure we don’t get cocky,” Tippett said. “We played a game against Seffner and we went in thinking we were going to win easy. We played awful and I think it’s because we thought we were going to win. It was a really close game. So we have to stay confident, but not too confident and play our hardest in every single game.”
Schweitzer added, “I think we needed that. If we didn’t we might have thought we were better than we were. I think we realized we need to keep trying our hardest.”
The road to a playoff spot will not get much easier, as CDS has two playoff teams from last year in its same district, Class 1A-District 7, including Bishop McLaughlin and Tampa Prep. The Hurricanes made regionals for the first time in program history in 2011, while the Terrapins made the Class 2A final four.
The 1A-7 tournament is at Tampa Prep Jan. 17-20. The championship game is on Friday, Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.
The Patriots played Cambridge Christian on Dec. 12, but results were not available by press time. CDS hosts Seffner Christian on Saturday, Jan. 5 at 4 p.m.
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