Now that the fall sports season is starting to wind down, we take a look at the boys and girls soccer teams who will look for good results on the pitch.
Top three story lines
1. Changing of the guard: Last year, East Lake beat Palm Harbor University in the region semifinals, the first time the Eagles had knocked off their fiercest rival in three seasons. Based on returning starters, East Lake should have the better team. But the Hurricanes showed their championship mettle by winning the Hurricane Watch Tournament in Week 1.
2. New era: Seminole coach Steve Kuplicki retired after 32 seasons after turning the program into a constant state contender. Taking over is former St. Petersburg Catholic coach Gary Kolb, who led the Barons to the state semifinals in 2011. Kolb lost a few scorers, including two-time player of the year Gina Hayduke, who graduated. But the Warhawks still have talent and beat East Lake in the semifinals of the Hurricane Watch tournament to advance to the final.
3. Scoring drought: Two of the county’s most prolific scorers, Hayduke (25 goals last season) and Clearwater Central Catholic’s Kaitlin Parker (37 goals), are gone. That leaves a void among those who can produce points. Don’t expect the eye-popping numbers from a year ago.
Top 10 players
Madison Del Duca, East Lake: Leads a loaded team capable of a state title run.
Alex Glunt, Seminole: Hard-nosed midfielder provides leadership for Warhawks.
Meggie Dougherty-Howard, St. Petersburg Catholic: Legitimate scoring threat who helped the Barons stay with PHU in semifinals of Hurricane tourney.
Morgan Lorenti, PHU: Goalkeeper will play a big role on a team known for recording shutouts.
Riley Narum, Countryside: U.S. national camp attendee led team in shots last season.
Sarah Raymond, PHU: A two-sport star, Raymond has to finish cross country season before making an impact in soccer.
Cassidy Reich, Osceola: Scored a goal in the Warriors’ season opener this week.
Kelly Shanahan, Clearwater Central Catholic: Marauders’ top returner will be asked to do a lot for rebuilding team.
Jordyn Turner, Seminole: One of the county’s most versatile players keeps Warhawks in championship form.
1. Palm Harbor University: Despite losing several key starters, the Hurricanes appear to be in postseason form after beating Seminole 4-0 in the Hurricane Watch final.
2. Seminole: Warhawks showed they can make up for the loss of key players by beating East Lake to make Hurricane Watch final.
3. East Lake: This ranking is based off last week, but the Eagles have enough talent to be No. 1 by the end of the season.
4. Countryside: Paired in the same district with East Lake and PHU, the Cougars have a tough road but should stay in contention.
5. Osceola: Followed up last season’s state semifinal run by beating St. Petersburg 2-0 in season opener.
6. Shorecrest: Proved it can be a force among private schools by beating St. Petersburg Catholic 1-0 earlier this week.
7. St. Petersburg Catholic: Lost 3-2 to PHU in Hurricane Watch semifinals, then lost to the Chargers.
Top three story lines
1. Loss of players: Countryside, East Lake and Palm Harbor University are the schools affected most by the decision of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s Developmental Academies playing a 10-month schedule. PHU has nine new starters and Countryside lost five players to the Academy. “I think what you’ll see from now on is a lot of one-and-done players,’’ PHU coach Alex Delgado said. “They’ll play as freshmen, and if they’re good enough they’ll go off and play for the Academy team.”
2. New era: After 25 years and six state titles, Clearwater Central Catholic coach Jim Harte moved on to Carrollwood Day School. Frank Seidl, a 1982 CCC graduate, takes over. “I’m impressed so far with the talent that is here,’’ he said. “It’s better than I thought. We’re just young. We have nine freshmen and sophomores who could make an impact.”
3. Surprise runs: Almost every season the same teams seem to win district and region championships. But these schools could shake things up: St. Petersburg (plays in a tough district but has plenty of talent), Northeast (maybe enough talent to scare Seminole a little bit), Osceola (enough seniors to make a run), St. Petersburg Catholic (district title is not out of the question), Lakewood (coach Jonathon Crouch thinks his team could be a district champion).
Top 10 players
Shane Butler, Seminole: Butler’s versatility makes him a goal scorer or a ball handler in the midfield.
Alexi Cortez, Osceola: Should lead the Warriors offensively. He has a scholarship offer to Marshall University.
Sean Covington, St. Petersburg: A very athletic keeper who can kick it nearly the full length of the field. Has a football scholarship to UCLA.
Dean Favetta, Seminole: A shut-down defender who was big in the playoffs last season.
Tommy Going, CCC: Four-year starter is expected to be the Marauders’ top offensive threat.
Tobi Jnohope, PHU: Delgado says Jnohope is a big-bodied freshman who has all the skills of a senior.
Exavier Jones, Lakewood: Spartans captain is poised to have a big year.
Djordje Rakovic, Northeast: Should control the center for the Vikings. Coach Tom Blauvelt calls him “Our very own Messi.’’
Ethan Singer, Countryside: Like Jnohope, Singer is a pre-Academy club player who has tremendous skills.
James Skonicki, St. Petersburg Catholic: Coach Will Summer calls him “technically and tactically ahead of his peers.”
1. Seminole: Last season’s Class 4A state runnerup lost some key players, but there’s plenty of talent returning.
2. Palm Harbor University: Young but talented, which is the theme in Class 5A-8.
3. East Lake: With the quality club teams in North Pinellas, the Eagles are always going to be competitive.
4. Osceola: Lots of seniors could lead this team deep into the playoffs.
5. Clearwater Central Catholic: Though there is a lot of turnover, the Marauders should still win their share of games.
6. Countryside: A completely different team with new coach Sean Nolan, but the Cougars have talent.
7. St. Petersburg: Another solid team in 5A-8; tied Osceola on Tuesday.
Compiled by staff writers Bob Putnam and Rodney Page.