North Suncoast soccer preview

As the soccer season kicks off — the boys begin this week, and the girls started last week — here's a primer on some of the North Suncoast teams and players to watch this year:

Girls soccer

Players to watch

Hannah Foster, Gulf. The midfielder was a focal point in Gulf's offensive barrage last year that helped the Buccaneers to a runnerup finish at district. As a junior, Foster scored 15 goals and recorded six assists.

Danielle Gottwik, Mitchell: The midfielder was a second-team all-North Suncoast pick as a freshman, and it's easy to see why. She knocked home the first goal in a 2-0 win over Gulf that gave the Mustangs their fifth district championship.

Alyssa Lonsway, Land O'Lakes: Lonsway was a second-team all-North Suncoast player last year and is a team captain for the Gators this winter. The senior defender should be one of the best at her position on a Land O'Lakes team that shut out Anclote in the season opener.

Teams to watch

River Ridge: The Royal Knights advanced to the region semifinals last year. If River Ridge wants to improve on last year, it must do so without player of the year Jenny Karl (44 goals, 18 assists), who signed with the University of Tampa.

Springstead: The Eagles won their first-ever playoff game last year before falling to nationally ranked Newsome. Kirsten Penny, Kim Smith, Zoe Andrew and company will use strong defense to try to improve on that under new coach Scott Wern.

Wiregrass Ranch: An underclassman-heavy Bulls team won their first district title and advanced to the Class 4A region final last season in its first trip to the playoffs. But with AJ Blount out with a knee injury, Berlin Waters, Dayton Wetherby and others must step up.

Boys soccer

Players to watch

Alex Burnham, Academy at the Lakes: The sophomore forward led the Wildcats with 21 goals last season as a freshman.

Brian Hoxie, Mitchell: The goalkeeper has committed to play soccer at Air Force. He's one of 12 seniors on an experienced team that lost only three key contributors from last year.

Zach Mine, Wesley Chapel: The senior forward missed all of last season. Now that he's healthy, Mine is expected to be one of the Wildcats' top scorers and lead a young but talented team.

Teams to watch

Hudson: The Cobras were one of the area's most improved teams last year. They lost to Pasco 6-0 early, but beat the Pirates 2-0 to clinch the district title. Now Owen Derkson, Dan Kumm and the rest of the Cobras will have to try to defend that title.

Land O'Lakes: The Gators have a handful of senior stars, including North Florida commitment Jake Frahm (19 assists last year), Florida Golf Coast commitment Andy Garcia (21 goals, 16 assists) and leading scorer Miguel Laliberte (25 goals, 11 assists).

Zephyrhills: The Bulldogs struggled last year but could be in for a turnaround season. Zephyrhills returns 13 players from last year's squad, including seniors Sean Morehouse and Gunnar Chauncey, a two-time honorable mention all-North Suncoast selection.

North Suncoast soccer preview 11/05/11 [Last modified: Saturday, November 5, 2011 9:51pm]

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