LITHIA — Newsome High’s final loss last year — 3-0 to Oviedo in a Class 5A state girls soccer semifinal — did not sit well with the team.
Thoughts nagged: If we just weren’t so nervous. If we just played tougher in those opening moments (where the Wolves gave up two goals in the first six minutes). If we had passed it more.
"Lots of frustration," junior Sophie Shrader said. "It made all of us want to get better."
Added senior Jenna Oldham: "It made us want another chance."
Now, armed with a sharpened focus, the Wolves return looking perhaps stronger and definitely with a healthier perspective.
"Now we know exactly what we need to do," Shrader said. "We know what level we need to rise to. We want to do whatever it takes to get there."
Work. Work. Work.
So far the Wolves (3-0 entering the week) haven’t let up for a moment during practices or games.
Holes? Yes, there were some that needed to be filled, beginning with the graduations last year of key players, including Lauren Evans (now at the University of Florida), Addison Ura and goalkeeper Madison Rowe.
Enter standout freshmen Sydni Dennis and Saylor Webster along with versatile returnees Chynna Harris and Emma Milligan and goalkeepers Gaby Provenzano and Sarah Ward.
Combine those with the Oldham (committed to Boston University) and Shrader (committed to Florida Gulf Coast) and things looks pretty darned good indeed.
"We also work very well together," said Shrader, who last year as a sophomore tied the school record with 36 goals in a season. "I think this team has a chance to be better than we were last year. I really believe that."
That’s saying a lot considering last year’s squad finished 20-1-3 and came into the state semifinals ranked No. 11 in the country by MaxPreps. Oviedo, by the way, finished 22-0-1 last year and ranked No. 1 in the country by MaxPreps.
"We always have high expectations," Newsome coach Kelly Townsend said. "It’s early in the season but I think this group has a great attitude and can accomplish some great things. We shall see."
The depth has already been challenged a bit with the loss of a starting defender, senior Andrea Tamayo, who tore her right ACL in the season’s first week.
"(Tamayo’s) loss does hurt but we will adjust and find a way," Townsend said. "We’ll do what we have to do."