Largo girls soccer a nice blend of experience, youth

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If the first two weeks of the high school girls soccer season are any indication, Largo should be in for a good year. Not only have the Packers recorded mercy-rule wins over Northside Christian, Keswick Christian, Clearwater and Gibbs, they also have an impressive 2-1 win over Clearwater Central Catholic and a 2-2 tie against Class 3A, District 10 nemesis Osceola.

The Packers lost three straight matches to the Warriors last season, including the district final and the region semifinal. This season, Largo is more competitive thanks to a mix of experience and youth.

"Weíre deep," said sixth-year Largo coach Dan Flynn. "First time I can ever say that. Itís a nice thing to have. If I lose a center midfielder, Iíve got somebody who can step in. If I lose a forward, Iíve got three players who can step in. Iíve got three defenders behind the three that start."

Senior Bre Dailey returns after scoring 27 goals as a junior. She transferred from Colorado before the start of last season and took over the striker position. This season she has been moved to center midfield, her more comfortable position.

Although she does have five goals, she doesnít have to be the main scoring threat, which is just fine with her.

"I love center mid," Dailey said. "Iím very glad that Iím back in that spot. I get to do everything. I get to play defense and offense and distribute the ball a lot, which is my favorite thing to do."

Senior goalkeeper Emma Schechter has been with the team for four years. She missed her freshman year with an injury but has been in goal since her sophomore year.

Senior midfielder/defender Kieley Buckowski has also been around for four years. She was a freshman on the 2014-15 team that won 17 games. This team has the potential to top that and Buckowski believes they can.

"Weíve gotten way better," Buckowski said. "We were good my freshman year because the seniors were good. Now, we play more as a team. In my freshman year nobody really talked to each other, nobody was really close to each other. This year everybody is friendly and that helps on the field. We work well as a team."

But what has helped the most so far has been the freshman class. Flynn said there are eight freshmen on the roster and all eight are talented enough to play.

Freshman forward Hannah Rigali leads the team with seven goals and six assists. Freshman Monique Gray has five goals and four assists.

"Mo and Hannah, they are the worker bees," Flynn said. "They donít look to beat you one-in-one. They keep making passes and never stop moving."

Defender Asti Luff, forward McKenzie Emery, striker Sophie Cavallaro, midfielder Alexi McClendon, midfielder Sarai Faulkner and midfieler Kira Rigali round out the freshman class. Hannah and Kira Rigali are cousins. They played together on the same club teams from under 8 until U-12.

Now they will be high school teammates for the next four years.

"Itís a lot more fun than club," Kira Rigali said. "Itís not like you have to win. Thereís not that pressure."

The competition is going to get tougher as the season wears on. There are still matches against East Lake, Countryside, Seminole, Palm Harbor University and St. Petersburg as well as tough district match ups with Tarpon Springs, Boca Ciega and Dunedin.

The most likely scenario is Osceola and Largo competing again for a district championship. This season, the Packers believe their depth will hold up.

"Normally we would have 20 players on the team but only about 12 were really good," Buckowski said. "This year we have 22 really good players."

       
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