There was a definite chill in the air at the Bartow Memorial Stadium last week when the Bartow High School girls’ soccer team met up with rival George Jenkins. The Wednesday night contest was the third in as many days, adding to the challenge.
Having this many games in such a short span of time is unusual, but it serves a purpose. When the post-season rolls around, the team will be faced with a similar scenario and it can be a good training test.
The junior varsity squad hit the field first. Thanks to the recent change from daylight savings time, even the opening game is played under the lights. It was a closely fought contest with Bartow holding its own despite the reputation of the opponent.
The junior varsity squad is coached by Alexander McLuckey, who is a faculty member at Bartow Middle School. He is assisted by a familiar face for team members. Jesse Coronado returns to the program for 2012.
There is a definite youth movement on this squad as 13 of the 20 players are freshmen. There are six sophomores and a junior on the early season roster. The junior varsity will follow the same schedule as the varsity through the end of the calendar year.
Members of the 2012 junior varsity team are Brianna Burley, Elena Chamberland, Claudia Coronado, Loosandra Delva, Kendall DePriest, Anna Dodd, Rachel Evans, Simone Gable, Amerika Gallegos, Keishira James, Anna Lawrence, Alyssa Macias, Grace McKellip, Autumn Ohara, Jenna Pahlman, Isabel Rodriguez, Jordan Rose, Caroline Ruthven, Brooke Smith and Bella Zachia.
The varsity squad is coached by Ben Braaten, who took the position just a few weeks before the start of the season. Braaten, who is also the school’s athletic director, has plenty of experience on the sidelines, the most recent coming as head coach of Lakeland High School last season, giving him plenty of knowledge about many of Bartow’s opponents. The team opened with some strong wins to start off the year in the right direction.
“I have been very impressed with the team’s passing,” said Braaten. “They have the ability to move the ball quickly and that allows them to get the shots on goal that they need to score. There is a lot of anticipation and playing together as a team. Some of the girls played together on the varsity last year and they play together in the off-season.”
Having 18 players on the roster is a definite plus. Soccer requires plenty of running and staying in position. The good teams focus on position and possession and one of the ways that can pay big dividends at the end is free substitution. “We try to keep the legs fresh,” said Braaten. “Our players keep in the flow of the game, both on the field and while they are sitting out. We’re also looking for ways during the game itself to strengthen this team. Tonight (against George Jenkins) I saw some stuff that I liked and we’ll be working on it at practice. A team can always get better.”
The outcome of the George Jenkins contest may have been disappointing, but there was a lot learned on that night. It was the first time the team fell behind by multiple goals, but they did not quit. “I thought they were a little timid at first and letting the opponent set the pace too much,” said Braaten. “In the second half, they came out and played a lot better. They showed a lot of heart and a lot of strength to stay in the game like they did.”
Bartow fans will get two more chances to see the girls teams at home in November. After a road game at Haines City tomorrow night, the team will take a 12-day break before hosting Lakeland on Nov. 27 and facing Ridge for a second time with this game on Nov. 29.
Braaten is assisted by McLuckey and Coronado for all games. There are six seniors, three juniors, six sophomores and two freshmen. Captains for the team are senior Bree Lawhead, senior Ariel Schleicher and junior Sarah Valenti. Joining that trio on the 2012 team are Jordyn Braaten, Courtney Deal, Allison Denton, Pamela Denton, Daphne Fernandez, Courtney Gleatan, Emily Harrelson, Anna Koretchko, Shannon Kozmic, Alleah Long, Precious McIntosh, Kathryn McNelis, Mikayla Mooney, Rachanze Thompson and Grace Valenti. Destany Davis and Saskia Funke assist as team managers. Scott Braaten prowls the sidelines as the designated ball boy.