By now, anyone who knows anything about the girls soccer program at Miami Springs High School knows that the bar is set pretty darn high on an annual basis.
Lots of regular season wins year after year followed by postseason success that has seen them advance to the state final four in 2008 and 2009 and the regional finals each of the last three seasons leads annually to big expectations, and this year is no exception for the Lady Hawks.
Last Friday afternoon (Nov. 22) they traveled to Barbara Goleman High School and had very little trouble with the Gators, recording a 7-0 win to move their record this season to 8-1-1.
A close last-minute 2-1 loss to Ferguson on Nov. 8 and a 3-3 tie with Palmetto a week later represent the only blemishes on their record so far.
“We have a nice mix of youth and experience so far and good balance as well,” said Springs head coach William Drew, now entering his 13th year at the controls of the program. “I feel like we have the full package this year. The thing I like most is that we appear to have a nice balance across the board of girls that can put the ball in the net, so we don’t have to rely so heavily on just one person.”
That doesn’t mean Springs doesn’t have plenty of standout players, and leading the way is Ale Salazar. One of only two seniors on the team, Salazar was a first-team Miami Herald All-County selection last spring and currently leads the team with 17 goals and five assists. Her 17th goal came last week in the win over Goleman and she also threw in a pair of assists.
But, like Drew said, Salazar is surrounded by plenty of talent, including fellow senior Jenecil Villar; junior Sophia De la Puente, who is the second-leading scorer on the team with 13 goals and nine assists; junior Annet Cea (six goals, two assists); and sophomore Alyssa Deno (four goals, five assists).
But what has Drew most excited these days is all of the new faces up from what was an awfully talented bunch from the MS/VG youth program the last few years, a group led by freshman Brianna Gomez.
Gomez was a star goalkeeper for a youth team that enjoyed much success and now has stepped right in and taken over the reins as the team’s starting keeper like she didn’t miss a beat.
“She suffered a mild concussion and missed a few games a few weeks ago but we got her back last week against Goleman and she’s good to go,” said Drew. “Brianna was a club player coming up through the ranks and you can just tell when she steps onto the field that she is the complete package. She has great right-to-left and left-to-right lateral movement and can really jump as well. Not only that but she just has great soccer instincts and you can’t always coach something like that. You just have it.”
Two other freshmen currently occupy a spot in the starting lineup for Springs, namely Sophia Gomez (no relation to Brianna) and Katherine Inhoof. Sophia plays up front and has four goals and three assists to her young resumé so far, while Inhoof is the team’s sweeper.
“The chemistry is good right now,” said Drew. “The girls aren’t playing a lot of kick ball. They’re doing a good job of keeping the ball on the ground and moving it around effectively.”
Another thing that has Drew excited is the new regional alignments. Thanks to a quirky twist the last two years, Springs was forced to square off against state power Melbourne in the regional finals, losing both times (1-0 and last year 4-0), and had to watch the Bulldogs go on and win the state title.
“No more of that,” said Drew. “Now we would face someone from Palm Beach County in the regional finals and would not have to mess with Melbourne until state. Hopefully we’ll have that problem come next February.”