By Jeff Odom
The Weightman Middle girls soccer team made program history this season by winning the East Pasco Conference Championship for the first time since the sport was instituted in 1998.
The Wildcats (7-0-1) allowed just two goals all season and defeated crosstown rival John Long, which hadn’t lost a game in more than five years, 1-0 March 5 to clinch the outright conference title.
First-year coach Tom Mine, who has been with the school as a physical education instructor since it opened in 1991, gave all the credit to his players and their parents for the hard work on and off the field. He added that the talent of his players caught his eye before the season began.
“All the kids and the parents were all really looking forward to the season, because they knew that these girls had been playing for a number of years competitively at the (Wesley Chapel Athletic Association) and other leagues around this area, and it made my job a lot easier,” Mine said. “We really anticipated a good season, and after watching them at tryouts I knew we had a really good team and a lot of good players that were focused, prepared to succeed in each game.”
The Wildcats dominated thanks in large part to goalkeeper Sydney Reeves (five shutouts), forward Tori Mitchell (seven goals) and leading scorer Bailey Hern (eight goals, 17 assists), a midfielder/forward.
Hern said to make history as the only group to ever win a conference championship is a special feeling and added that she hopes their success this season lays the foundation for the future.
“It means a lot and it means we’re different than the other (girls soccer) teams that this school has had because of what we did,” Hern said. “We were like underdogs, because before no one had ever won one before, and it shows that we made history. It’s like the greatest feeling ever.”
Reeves returned to the team this season after missing much of last year.
“I was really proud of myself, because only letting in two goals all season is a big deal, and it felt good after last season when I broke my finger on the very first game of the season in warm-ups,” Reeves said. “To have (my defense) helping me out really helped me, and we definitely improved a lot, and the girls who came in this year were just really good.”
After a tie with Pine View to open the season, the Wildcats had to play two weeks without Mitchell because of an injury. Mine told his players they needed to all step up and fill the void.
The result still makes him smile.
Weightman defeated Rushe 2-0 before knocking off Pasco 3-1 in the pouring rain. That’s when Mine realized how far his team could go.
“There’s a banner up in the gym that had no championships on it, and over the years a lot of people notice that,” Mine said. “They would come up into the building and see no girls championships. I had been hearing from many parents that this is the year we were going to put up a championship, and, you know, the parents were right.”
As for the future, Mine hopes this is just the beginning for his budding squad. He said it will take a lot of work to put another banner up next year, but knows they have what it takes to be successful.
“These girls played with a lot of determination,” Mine said. “It’s a thrill, and being here since the school opened up, I’m just very thankful to be able to have coached these girls, and I’m very proud of what they did. They’re really just super, super kids, and they’re very good soccer players. … Hopefully, we can do it all over again.”