Caidee Sumner and Bella Wood were determined to end their middle school soccer careers on a high note.
The eighth-grade team co-captains did just that — leading the Imagine School of Land O’ Lakes Dragons to the 2019 Tampa Charter Athletic League (TCAL) girls soccer championship title.
“It’s our last year here and we wanted to go out as a champion,” Wood said.
The Dragons (9-2) entered the TCAL playoffs as a No. 3 seed, after losing its only regular season contests to Learning Gate Community School and Lutz Preparatory School, respectively.
In each of those defeats, the Dragons were without one of those team captains.
But, with its top two players fully available for the playoffs, the Dragons were poised to claim its second TCAL title in three years.
Sumner’s presence was undoubtedly felt in the games that mattered most.
In the semifinal game against the No. 2 seed Learning Gate, Sumner scored an unheard of four goals in the team’s 5-3 win.
She followed that performance in the title game, scoring the lone goal in the 1-0 win against No. 1 seed Lutz Prep.
It was par for the course for the Dragons forward, who led the team with 42 goals.
Said Sumner, “It’s really nice just to know that my last year here, I get to score the last goal. The ball got up the field by our team for me to score, so I mean it’s a team effort.”
She added: “Every goal I scored, I was thinking for our team, ‘I have to score. I’m the scorer. I have to score for us to win.’ Every goal was for this team, which was really nice just to score to know that like we’re going to win, and the team’s behind me.”
As the one-nil score would indicate, Lutz Prep was the Dragons’ toughest test all season long.
The Dragons figured as much heading into the game.
“We were fighting the whole time, until we scored the goal,” Wood said.
“We had that drive just to win,” Sumner said. “I told them (teammates) before, ‘We have to fight hard if we want to win this game, and we did. We came through.”
The victory added extra meaning as it marked the third straight year the two local charter schools have matched up in the title game. The Dragons lost to the Bolts in last year’s championship, but won in 2017.
“Those are our rivals. We always want to beat them,” Sumner said.
Such familiarity helped the Dragons’ game plan for the Bolts, Sumner said.
She explained: “Over the years, we learned that they had a few of their stronger players we have to watch out for, so we just focused on them, marking them, blocking them, like putting them down so they just didn’t get the ball much.”
The championship put a bow on a season where the Dragons posted seven shutouts and outscored opponents 75 to 9.
It was also a proper sendoff for a quartet of eighth-graders moving on to the high school ranks, made up of Sumner, Wood, Natalie Magharus and Trinity Slone. The rest of the team’s fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders are expected to return next season.
“I’ll miss everyone because it was so fun,” said Wood, who’s moving on to Land O’ Lakes High School with Sumner. “We were a family, and it’s going to be hard to leave them because we’ve known them for three years.”
The season likewise couldn’t have ended any better for Dragons first-year coach Henry Cheung, who coaches the team alongside Saint Leo Hall of Famer Sam Koleduk.
“Overall, it’s a good season. I am proud with the girls for what they did, and I’m happy my first year coaching I got a championship,” Cheung said.
He added: “The girls are hardworking. They gave everything they had.”
Coaching chops aside, Cheung credited the team’s talent level and ability to play together as reasons for the on-field success.
“We’re united,” he said, noting the team knows how to play well together.
And, despite the exodus of Sumner, Wood and the others, the coach has high hopes for next season.
“I’m looking forward to next year,” Cheung said. “Under coach Sam (Koleduk) and all the other girls, we’ll do good next year, too.”
2019 Imagine School girls soccer roster
- Abigail Courtney
- Madalyn Courtney
- Lilie Shen-Dale
- Ava Folkman
- Emily Folkman
- Angelisse Force
- Natalia Magharus
- Aurora Nelson
- Julissa Novillo
- Siena Pena
- Madylena Perez
- Annelisa Russo
- Trinity Slone
- Mya Smith
- Caidee Sumner (co-captain)
- Gabriella Suppa
- Payton Webster
- Bella Wood (co-captain)
- Keeley Yarbrough
- Coach: Sam Koleduk
- Coach: Henry Cheung
- Caidee Sumner — 42 goals, 13 assists, 97 points
- Bella Wood — 15 goals, 17 assists, 47 points
- Annelisa Russo — 13 goals, 9 assists, 35 points
- Julissa Novillo — 3 goals, 12 assists, 18 points
- Madylena Perez— 4 goals, 7 assists, 15 points
- Lilie Shen-Dale— 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points
- Keeley Yarbrough — 7 shutouts
By the numbers
- 9-2 overall record
- 75 goals scored
- 9 goals allowed
- 7 shutouts
Game-by-game results for 2019 season
- New Springs School (13-0 win)
- Sunlake Academy (15-0 win)
- Henderson Hammock (10-0 win)
- Trinity School (7-0 win)
- Learning Gate (1-0 loss)
- Lutz Prep (5-4 loss)
- Hillsborough Academy (7-0 win)
- Classical Prep (6-1 win)
- Terrace Community (7-0 win)
- Tampa Charter Athletic League Semi-Final: at No. 2 seed Learning Gate (5-3 win)
- Tampa Charter Athletic League Championship: at No. 1 seed Lutz Prep (1-0 win)
Published April 17, 2019