LITHIA — Conventional wisdom says Newsome senior soccer player Ana Cate is too small to hold her own in the possession battles that take place in the midfield.
When asked about her liberal height listing of 5-foot-1, she laughs.
"Yeah, I'm pushing it," she said.
But what Cate might lack in size, she makes up for in speed and effort. She has proved doubters wrong, earning a scholarship offer to play at Auburn next year, one of four Wolves players who will likely play Division I soccer.
And on the field, Newsome coach Kelly Townsend calls Cate the "link that holds everybody together."
"She connects everybody," Townsend said. "She's a leader on and off the field. The way she performs in the classroom is phenomenal. I think she got a 30 on her ACTs. She gets it done there and she gets it done there.
"She's little, but people listen to her. She's got this big strong voice where people listen to her."
And as Newsome (16-4-2) hosts the Class 5A-8 girls district tournament this week, her play will, as always, be pivotal to the Wolves' success.
"I'm not going to be your 5-foot-10, 150-pound midfielder," Cate said. "I know I have to play faster and play stronger or I'll get killed out there.
"I think I've got an advantage with my speed," she said. "I don't have these long legs that would slow me down. I might not be able to jump the highest, but I can be quicker."
That's what makes Cate a defender's nightmare. Moments after she gets the ball, she's already in the attacking zone. This season, she has 90 shots on goal, 10 of them good for goals. She keeps Newsome's attack frenetic, and her ability to move the ball up the field might be her best attribute, Townsend said.
"There's a significant difference when she's not in the middle of the field," Townsend said. "You saw it when she was out for the Plant game in early December (a 1-0 loss). We just fell apart in the middle."
6A-7 at Countryside
Monday: Alonso (4) vs. Gaither (5), 6; Sickles (3) vs. Countryside (6), 8; Wednesday: TBD vs. St. Petersburg (2), 6; TBD vs. Mitchell (1), 8; Friday: final, 7.
Skinny: Mitchell is a heavy favorite, but any of the other teams — St. Petersburg, Sickles and Alonso, in particular — could come up with a region berth in the county's deepest district.
6A-8 at Riverview
Tuesday: Sarasota (4) vs. Lakeland (5), 4; Durant (3) vs. Riverview (6), 6; Sarasota Riverview (2) vs. Plant City (7); Wednesday: TBD semifinal, 6; TBD vs. East Bay (1), 8; Friday: final, 7.
Skinny: East Bay (9-2-1), led by junior forward and 16-goal scorer Brittany Cox, held off a young Durant team in the standings. Can the Indians do it again in tournament play?
5A-8 at Newsome
Tuesday: Bloomingdale (1) vs. Tampa Bay Tech (8), 6; Newsome (2) vs. Armwood (7), 8; Wednesday: Freedom (3) vs. Brandon (6), 6; Wharton (4) vs. King (5), 8; Thursday: semifinals, 6 and 8; Friday: final, 7.
Skinny: Newsome is finally healthy, goalkeeper Kendall Graham is back to anchor the defense and the Wolves are aiming to avenge a loss to Bloomingdale this season.
5A-10 at Leto
Tuesday: Hillsborough (3) vs. Blake (6), 4; Chamberlain (2) vs. Jefferson (7), 6; Robinson (4) vs. Leto (5), 8; Wednesday: TBD semifinal, 6; TBD vs. Plant (1), 8; Friday: final, 7.
Skinny: With an incredible defense that has allowed just eight goals all season (17 shutouts), it's hard not to believe the Panthers (15-1-1) don't win this district easily, but the runnerup spot is up in the air.
4A-9 at Ridge Community (Lakeland)
Monday: Spoto (5) vs. Lake Wales (4), 7; Tuesday: Tenoroc (7) vs. Kathleen (2), 6; Ridge Community (3) vs. Haines City (6), 8; Thursday: Bartow (1) vs. TBD, 6; TBD semifinal TBD, 8; Friday: final, 7.
Skinny: Fifth-seeded Spartans would get an extra day off before the semifinals if they can knock off Lake Wales in the first round.
3A-9 at Holy Names
Tuesday: Clearwater Central Catholic (3) vs. Tampa Catholic (4), 6; Academy of the Holy Names (5) vs. Lennard (6), 8; Wednesday: TBD vs. St. Petersburg Catholic (2), 6; TBD vs. Berkeley Prep (1), 8; Friday: final, 7.
Skinny: The top-seeded Buccaneers (14-3-1) have outscored opponents 64-16 this season, and that includes eight shutouts and four 8-0 mercy-rule wins.
2A-6 at Santa Fe Catholic
Thursday: Lakeland Christian (2) vs. Seffner Christian (3), 5; Santa Fe Catholic (1) vs. All Saints (4), 7; Friday: final, 7.
Skinny: Seffner (9-5-2) must break out of its recent funk. The Crusaders have lost four of five heading into the district tournament.
2A-9 at Tampa Prep
Tuesday: Bishop McLaughlin (2) vs. Cambridge (3), 5; Tampa Prep (1) vs. Calvary Christian (4), 7; Friday: final, 7.
Skinny: Defending state champ Terps (12-3-2), led by freshman Colby Maffei's 20 goals, should emerge easily.