VALRICO — Following a legend isn't easy.
After stamping her legacy on the Hillsborough County soccer scene for the past 16 years, Sue Peet stepped down at Bloomingdale before the season, leaving a gaping hole in one of the most consistent soccer programs in the state.
Enter Heather Iverson.
"I've seen the shape of the program and the legacy (Peet) left it in," Iverson said. "What she's done has certainly made my life easier."
Peet had a nine-year run at Coconut Creek before taking the Bloomingdale job in 1996 and led Bloomingdale to a state championship in 2001. Peet, who reached the postseason 22 times in her career, guided the Bulls to the playoffs in 15 of her 16 years at Bloomingdale.
"You can tell there was a great attention to detail here, the little things," Iverson said.
Iverson, 34, comes to Bloomingdale from Delaware after, surprisingly, playing no high school soccer.
"Back when I was (in high school) we didn't have a girls soccer team," she said. "I played for a good club in the area and ran cross country."
Iverson continued her cross-country career at the University of Delaware, graduating in 2000. She coached the soccer at high school, Division II and junior college levels before taking a break to enter "the corporate world."
"I did that for awhile but realized my passion was in coaching," she said. "I chaired the state high school soccer tournament and did some private lessons, but I wanted to get back into coaching."
Tipped off to the Bloomingdale opening by a friend in town, Iverson jumped at the chance.
"It has been an awesome experience so far," she said. "You can tell that there is a lot of community support and school pride, and I love that stuff."
Senior co-captain Brittany Coca said meeting her new coach for the first time was eye opening.
"Actually we were all kind of scared to be honest," Coca said. "She just came in and started telling us all the stuff that was going to happen. You could tell that she was a very strong person."
Coca said she sees a lot of similar personality traits in Iverson and Peet.
"They are both very intense coaches, and they both really know the game," Coca said. "So I don't think it's going to be that big of a change for us."
Bloomingdale is in arguably the toughest district in the state, along with Plant, Newsome and Wharton, but Iverson inherits a senior-heavy team that was the 5A-7 runner-up last year. Traditionally a defensive-minded team, Iverson said she is trying to open up the attack more this season.
"That's been the biggest obstacle so far because I like to push the pedal and go," she said. "If we can mix the great defense they have played here with that then it's the best-case scenario."
The Bulls' backline looks to be solid, led by Coca and her sister Amber, a co-captain.
"They are the leaders of the team," Iverson said. "They set the tone."
Mary Ann Barrett and center midfielder Elyse Fontecchio figure to control the middle third of the field.
"(Fontecchio) is the quarterback of the team out there," Iverson said. "She makes it all go."
At the point of Iverson's attack are Arianna Fraley and Tatiana Hernandez. Iverson believes her emphasis on offense and the Bulls' typically strong defense will be the formula to getting Bloomingdale back to the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season.
"We want to keep getting good high pressure and keep our hand on the throttle," she said. "I'd rather be in a 8-7 game than a 1-2 or 2-1 one any day."
Brandon Wright can be reached at [email protected]