Bryane Heaberlin obviously couldn’t be in two places at once, but her Berkeley Prep teammates needed her for their Class 3A region semifinal game against St. Petersburg Catholic last season. ¶ Heaberlin, the Bucs’ then-freshman goalkeeper, was in Miami for a U.S. Soccer U-17 supercamp. She flew home from South Florida for just a few hours to take the net for Berkeley. She helped win the game then flew back to Miami for morning workouts. ¶ But Heaberlin, who at age 14 helped Berkeley to the Class 3A region final last year, likes being under pressure. She has played in the Olympic Development Program since she was 11. She is the only 15-year-old on the U.S. women’s national U-17 team, a squad focused on next year’s U-17 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.
“I like having the pressure of having the game on your shoulders,” said Heaberlin, a St. Petersburg resident. “That’s why I’ve always liked being a keeper.”
And this season as a sophomore, Heaberlin is one of the main reasons the Buccaneers have legitimate hopes for a state title. Fourteen of 18 players from last year’s team return, including leading scorers Taylor Richardson, Taylor Batye and Samantha Newhaller.
“Having her makes us much more comfortable, like if a ball gets by the defense, we know we’re okay,” said Richardson, a Berkeley junior fullback and club ball teammate of Heaberlin’s with the Clearwater Chargers. “When PKs come along, it’s just like, 'Okay, Bryane’s got it.’ ”
This year, the Bucs, who finished last season 19-4-2, will have several early tests against the likes of Orlando powers Lake Highland Prep and Bishop Moore as well as defending 3A champ Plantation American Heritage and Boca Raton St. Andrews, the latter of which ended Berkeley’s 2008-09 season.
And a solid keeper usually anchors any legitimate state contender. Last year, Heaberlin allowed fewer than a goal a game (.926) and tallied eight shutouts. Even more important, she immediately emerged as a leader.
“That’s the difference with her,” Berkeley coach Ken Roberts said. “It’s why she is who she is. Last year, she was a leader on this team as a freshman. From the first day, she had everyone’s respect.”
This Bucs team is full of seniors and juniors, and Richardson said most of them have played together for five years, always with the goal of making the state tournament.
“This is the year when we really have to mature as a team,” Roberts said. “We’ve had the talent, and we’ve seen it grow.
“It’s put-up time.”
Players to watch
MF Taylor Batye, Sr., Berkeley Prep: The Navy recruit likely will miss the first month with an ankle injury. She had 12 goals and seven assists last year despite missing part of the season for cross country.
F Brittany Cox, Sr., East Bay: She led the Indians to the Class 6A region final last year, scoring 26 goals with 10 assists, tied for the most points in the county with 62.
F/MF Karina Gutsche, Jr., Newsome: She can play all over the field and scored 22 goals and had two assists.
MF Jordan Johnson, Sr., Bloomingdale: The Florida State recruit is the pacesetter for the Bulls offense.
GK Jordan Hatton, Sr., Tampa Prep: The Terps’ leader on defense, the Appalachian State recruit allowed just 13 goals in 23 games, including 13 shutouts.
F Colby Maffei, So., Tampa Prep: She led the county in goals as a freshman, with 30 goals and two assists.
F Samantha Newhaller, Sr., Berkeley Prep: The Navy recruit had 12 goals and five assists last season.
D Taylor Richardson, Jr., Berkeley Prep: The rangy back is also the Bucs’ top offensive threat. She scored 27 goals and had six assists last year.
MF Amy Werdine, Sr., Plant: A talented, defensive-minded sweeper, the Appalachian State recruit is the key to the Panthers’ middle game.
F/MF Connor Zwetsch, Jr., Plant: She recently committed to Florida State after a nine-goal, four-assist campaign as a sophomore.
Others to watch: Kara Buono, Bloomingdale; Gabby Cook, Tampa Prep; Amber Famiglietti, Berkeley Prep; Lauren Knoke, Tampa Prep; Lauren Moore, Gaither; Sarah Moyer, Sickles; Emily Rodriguez, Wharton; Sidney Sivitz, Sickles; Brooke Williams, Armwood
Teams to watch
1. Berkeley Prep (19-4-2): Fourteen of 18 players return from last season’s Class 3A region finalists. If the Bucs can stay healthy, they can compete for a state title.
2. Tampa Prep (17-4-3): Last year’s Class 2A state semifinal trip left a bad taste in the Terps’ mouths. Most of the team still remembers winning a state title two years ago.
3. Newsome (22-4-2): The Wolves lose a lot of talent from last year’s Class 5A region final team, including three Division-I recruits. But even with just two returning starters, Newsome always seems to be able to reload instead of rebuild.
4. East Bay (13-3-2): New coach Becky Wickham takes over for Claudine Sosa, who went to Strawberry Crest after leading the Indians to the Class 6A region final. But East Bay still has Brittany Cox, one of the county’s most dynamic offensive players.
5. Plant (18-2-1): A move up to Class 6A gets the Panthers away from Pinellas County powers East Lake and Palm Harbor University but gives them some tough district competition against Bloomingdale and Alonso.
Photo: Tampa Prep's Jordan Hatton WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times