LHS girls soccer

Taylor Dortch, left, passes the ball to Maddy Koon at a Lafayette practice.

MAYO, Fla. — The Lafayette girls soccer team returns seven players from last year’s team to a new district, and head coach Lucie Gresham and assistant coach Autumn Raulerson are seeking a big improvement.

The team had an even record last year, but won only two games the year before.

“Last year was a learning year for us, two years prior we lost some key players, so we had a very young team last year,” Gresham said. “We have juniors and seniors with little experience but they are athletic and can help us this season.”

Gresham, who has coached varsity soccer eight years for LHS, said last season was about “touches,” thereby allowing players to gain experience with handling the soccer ball, and called new girls on the team “quick learners.”

The team lost four starters from last year, including Summer Vaughn, who posted six goals and was team assist leader with nine. Spring Raulerson, sister of Autumn Raulerson, led the team with nine goals last year.

“I hope we double our victories from last year, we’re very capable of it.” Gresham said. “You can tell these girls have touched the ball in the offseason and that’s what we like to see. When they come in for tryouts, we can tell if they have worked in the offseason or not.”

Gresham said players have been conditioning for a couple months with the first game scheduled for Tuesday at Williston. The first home game is Nov. 14 against Newberry at 5 p.m.

“We’re excited, but we have a lot of work to do,” Gresham said. “Some of the girls haven’t played organized soccer, so it’s going to be tough for us for the next two weeks. We’ll see what we can get out of them when they’re working together.”

Some of the players that Gresham hopes will help the team include senior Maddy Koon, who is new to the team.

“Spring Raulerson and Kelly Howell are sophomores who will be big players for us this year,” Gresham said. “Yomeida Hernandez, a junior, and Brianna Negrete will be big defenders for us, and also Hudson Powell, who is great at corner kicks and has a lot of agility.”

Gresham also mentioned junior Gabby Sarmiento, who registered 88 saves at keeper last year/

“She is an all-around great player; she can play goalie, forward, midfield and she can play defense,” Gresham said. “She’s a utility player who can do it all.”

The team is now in District 5-1A, one that won’t require the extensive travel required last season.

“In district last year, we had to go all the way to Freeport to play. It’s a four-hour haul. We also had Rocky Bayou, Port St. Joe, Franklin and Maclay,” Gresham said. “This year our district includes Hamilton, St. Francis and Oak Hall. It’s more localized than it has been.”

Gresham and Autumn Raulerson said the Hornets can also run various different lineups and sets at opponents, depending how LHS needs to play.

But Gresham added that she hopes played gain more than plays and wins and losses away from being a part of the program.

“But it’s not all about the athletics, it’s about the camaraderie, they learn life lessons by being on an athletic team,” she said. “And to me the friendships they have are forever, that’s probably one of the most important things about athletics…and discipline.”

Jeff Shourds is a sports writer for the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press.

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