By Kyle LoJacono
Tenacious. Strong. Relentless.
They’re words that generally describe a powerful linebacker in football, a towering forward in basketball and a physically imposing pitcher in baseball or softball.
At Wiregrass Ranch, the words also depict a soccer forward, but she doesn’t fit the usual mold of a dominating athlete.
In fact, Berlin Waters is someone most opponents likely don’t notice at first. She’s only 5-foot, but it doesn’t take more than a few moments on the field to realize just how difficult it is to contain her.
Her teammate Ashley Murphy, a senior defender, had the same eye-opening discovery when she met Waters as members of the same Central Pasco United Soccer Association (CPUSA) club team as freshmen.
“I didn’t think much of her at first,” Murphy said. “I had to defend her, and I thought it wouldn’t be hard. … She’s just so little, but then you see how fast she is and you’re like, how? Then you try and knock her off the ball, and you can’t do that either.”
Waters’ speed is what people usually notice first.
“It’s kind of crazy,” said Bulls senior defender Lauren Gordon. “I just watch her take off and think, wow, there’s another goal; there’s another great play.”
Waters said she first realized she was faster than most people while attending Quail Hollow Elementary in Wesley Chapel.
“We’d have races around P.E.,” Waters said. “I’d always be up there with the guys in front.”
Waters began developing a passion for soccer around the same time. She started playing recreationally with the Wesley Chapel Athletic Association (WCAA) at age 8, but her fearlessness developed much earlier.
“I have two brothers who always push me around and make me tougher,” said Waters, who has committed to play at Saint Leo University. “I just love soccer, and the competition makes we want to go out there and do the best that I can.”
Waters moved up to competitive club soccer with the CPUSA, where she met first-year Wiregrass Ranch coach Eddy Costa.
“One of the things about her is once she gets the ball in front of her, she has that tenacity to get to the goal,” Costa said. “She creates a lot of chances, and that’s big because if you create 10 chances you might score two goals, but if you only create two or three chances you might not score at all. With Berlin, that tenacity she has is something other teams are going to have to reckon with.”
Costa, who was an assistant for the U17 CPUSA team that Waters won a state cup with, said she also adds more than just goals and assists.
“It’s nothing but a positive situation with Berlin,” Costa said. “She’s definitely a team leader on the field and she’s an impact player.”
Waters attended Academy at the Lakes as a freshman. The Wildcats didn’t have a girls soccer program that year, which left a competitive void for Waters.
She transferred to Wiregrass Ranch as a sophomore, a season where she racked up 21 goals and 19 assists to helps the Bulls earn their first playoff berth, win their first district championship and reach the regional finals.
“It was awesome coming in new to the school, just meeting everybody and we come out and win all these games was amazing,” Waters said. “We had such a good team and good chemistry.”
The pressure to produce jumped last season. A torn ACL left the Bulls without leading scorer A.J. Blount, who had 40 goals in 2010-11.
Waters rose to the challenge, posting 23 goals while adding 10 assists for a Wiregrass Ranch team that went 17-5. Her tally total not only led her squad, but also made her the leading scorer in Class 4A-District 8.
“She just went out there and did her thing again,” Gordon said. “She always does.”
Waters is tied for the team lead with 12 goals this season while adding five assists to the 11-1 Bulls.
Waters is not a one-sport athlete.
She has been a key member of the Bulls cross country team the last two years, helping the program win two Sunshine Athletic Conference (SAC) and district championships. They also earned a regional title this season and finished sixth at the 3A state meet, while Waters placed 24th with a new personal record (PR) by completing the 5-kilometer course in 19 minutes 21 seconds.
“When she came to us I knew she was athletic,” said Wiregrass Ranch cross country coach Don Howard. “What I didn’t know was how competitive she is. She always wants to run faster each day. She’s always looking to win.”
Competing in two sports gives her the chance to win twice as much, but also puts double the miles on her body. Each day after school, Waters participates with the soccer team and then either goes to club practice or runs cross country while in season.
“I have to go and take ice baths because it’s so much stress on my legs,” Waters said. “I learn to manage it, sometimes. … My mom, it’s a lot of stress on her and my dad. It’s a lot of planning of when to leave, when to pick me up and if we have time to get everywhere. It’s a lot of planning, and I couldn’t do it without my parents help.”
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