HomeTeam Hot Shots Bella Jaramillo, Wesley Chapel
This is Jaramillo’s fourth season on Wesley Chapel’s varsity soccer team. She has never gone through a losing season with the Wildcats, but there has always been one nemesis: Pasco. They were 1-7-2 against the Pirates since 2015. They had not beaten Pasco in the district tournament in that span. That changed Friday, and Jaramillo played a big role.
The senior midfielder/forward scored two goals, including the winner in the final minutes, to help Wesley Chapel win 4-3 in the Class 3A, District 7 final. She has 15 goals this season, but none bigger than Friday’s winner.
"That’s the most memorable goal I’ve had, for sure," she said.
Jaramillo is ending her senior season on a high note. The Wildcats will host River Ridge on Feb.?6 in the region quarterfinals. They lost 3-0 to Land O’Lakes in the semifinals last season.
"We were kind of worried about this season at the beginning because we lost so many seniors," Jaramillo said. "But everybody has played so well and we’ve gotten better and better."
It’s a season Jaramillo doesn’t want to end. But when it does, she will not be finished playing soccer. She will attend Averett University in Danville, Va. She is currently dual enrolled at Pasco-Hernando Community College.
She will play club soccer in the spring to stay in shape before leaving for school in the summer.
"It’s gone by so fast," she said. "Hopefully we can keep winning and make it a special senior year."
Jackson Eckley, Tampa Catholic
As a freshman two years ago, Eckley was a dual-sport athlete, playing quarterback and goalkeeper at the JV level.
Eckley was promoted to the varsity soccer squad late in that 2015-16 season — just in time to be on the sideline for the Crusaders’ magical run to the Class 2A state championship game.
The experience was enough to convince Eckley to concentrate strictly on soccer.
"It really impacted being to able to get to states," Eckley said. "That really got the drive going for me to try to get back."
Trouble is, Tampa Catholic has struggled to get on a roll again.
The Crusaders had a losing record last season, which ended with a loss to rival and eventual state finalist Berkeley Prep in the region semifinals. This season was more of the same, at least early on. Tampa Catholic was 4-5-1 the first week of January. Since then, the Crusaders have gone 5-0-2.
Eckley has helped lead the turnaround. The junior has 103 saves, including a combined 23 last week in wins over previously undefeated Bradenton St. Stephen’s and St. Petersburg.
"We’re starting to come together," Eckley said. "This is a young team with just two seniors, and we changed formations at the beginning of the season. It took some time to adjust, but we’re playing really well defensively and setting a good foundation for the team."
Eckley has interest from schools such as Eckerd and Florida Southern, but no offers. He is more worried about helping Tampa Catholic to another deep playoff run.
"I want to have a ring before I’m done here," Eckley said.