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Girls soccer: Shorecrest on cruise control in postseason

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Mon. January 27, 2014 | Bob Putnam | Email

ST. PETERSBURG — Neal Wolfrath has done some impressive things as Shorecrest’s girls soccer coach, guiding the Chargers to playoff appearances in 10 of the past 12 seasons.

So it was business as usual when Shorecrest continued that streak by waltzing through Class A, District 6 two weeks ago and cruising to a 6-1 win over Cambridge Christian in last week’s region quarterfinals.

Still, the Chargers (18-2) are not satisfied. Bolstered by a lineup that includes nine returning starters, Shorecrest has the depth and experience to make a return trip to the region finals, where the Chargers lost 1-0 last season to Lakeland Christian.

“I knew we would have a real strong team coming back,” Wolfrath said. “It’s one of the deepest teams I’ve had and it goes beyond just the starting 11 we have out there. Because of that, I felt like a good shot to at least get back to the region final and maybe even farther.”

The next test comes tonight against Calvary Christian in the region semifinals. Shorecrest has swept the three previous meetings, outscoring the Warriors a combined 22-0. But Calvary, which won a playoff game for the first time last week, has gotten better and the 4-0 loss to the Chargers in the district final two weeks ago was the closest of the three games.

“We’ve played Calvary enough that we know what to expect,” Wolfrath said. “But they’ve improved quite a bit so I expect it to be a tough game.”

Shorecrest’s offense has been stellar, averaging five goals per game. And the scoring has been balanced with four players — Jade Caswell, Skyler Ellenburg, Sophie Wiltshire and Sarah Zolper — with 10 or more goals.

“We’ve had great offenses in the past, with No. 1 scorers,” said Ellenburg, a senior. “But this is the most versatile offense we’ve had since I’ve been here. It takes the pressure off of us”

The Chargers started the season 5-2, with the losses coming against Class 2A foes Tampa Prep and Academy of the Holy Names. Since then, Shorecrest has won 13 straight and scored at least four goals in each of the past 10.

If Shorecrest advances to Friday’s region final, it could face Community School of Naples, which has won its last five games by a combined score of 40-5, including a 9-1 victory against Sarasota Christian in last week’s region quarterfinal.

“We’re playing well,” Wolfrath said, “But we still have some tough games ahead.”

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