There’s a new coach at powerhouse Lourdes Academy, a desire to overcome a serious injury at South Dade and an accumulation of talent at Ferguson and Miami Springs.
But perhaps no team is as primed for a big turnaround as Palmer Trinity, which finished 5-6-2 last season and failed to make it out of the district playoffs.
But a lot has changed since that 2-1 loss to Marathon, not the least of which is the return of Wake Forest recruit Sarah Medina, who scored 52 goals to shatter the school record in 2011-12 before spending last season in Orlando.
Palmer also has a new coach in Phil Gentles, who spent the past nine years directing middle-school soccer. This is the first time Gentles has coached Medina, but he is already a big fan.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
“I’ve watched a lot of varsity soccer the past five or six years, especially Gulliver and good teams like that,” Gentles said. “Sarah is the best high school player I’ve seen, not just in talent but in terms of work ethic.”
Medina, a 5-7 senior, attended Orlando’s First Academy last season. But since that school did not have a girls’ team, she played with the boys’ team. She said she scored eight goals in 12 matches, at times embarrassing her male counterparts.
“If I made a little move, and he fell for it, his teammates said they were going to take me out,” Medina said. “But [my teammates] were very nice. They said: ‘If you touch her, you will have to deal with us.’ ”
This season, girls’ teams will have to deal with Medina, who led Palmer to the Class 1A state final in 2012.
That game resulted in a 7-1 loss to St. John’s Country Day. Still, Palmer became just the third Miami-Dade County school since 2000 to qualify for a state final in girl’s soccer, joining Lourdes and Gulliver.
Lourdes (5A) and Gulliver (2A) lost in the state final last season.
However, Gulliver won the 3A championship in 2011, becoming the first Dade girls’ soccer title-holder since Hialeah-Miami Lakes in 1993.
Ramiro Vengoechea replaces long-time Lourdes coach Ray Walden and inherits talent such as junior midfielder Christine Hoynack and senior goalie Jenny Herold, who both made first-team All-Dade last season. But both Lourdes (two) and Gulliver (three) graduated players who made first-team All-Dade last season.
In addition, three standout Gulliver players are still trying to come back from injuries, including freshman forward Samantha Earle (ankle), who scored 20 goals last season and made first-team All-Dade. The other injured standouts are junior midfielder Khara Vassell (knee) and sophomore defender Jenna Griffiths (foot).
South Dade has its own injury issue — first-team All-Dade forward Jade Hayes is out for the season with a torn ACL she sustained last April during a collision with a goalie during club season.
Fortunately for Hayes, who led South Dade with 30 goals last season, she has a soccer scholarship with the University of Tampa, a Division II program.