VALRICO — With a number of district finals around the area tonight and the postseason starting next week, soccer season is heating up as the temperature drops.
But in terms of soccer's exposure on MaxPreps.com, a popular Web site devoted to high school sports, participation has been lukewarm. The Web site provides updated statistics, rosters and schedules for high school teams as entered by their coaches. MaxPreps.com is intended to increase exposure for the athletes, but some coaches have chosen to ignore it.
"I've chosen not to (enter our stats)," Newsome girls' soccer coach Kelly Townsend said. "And everyone on the team is completely fine with that."
Although the Web site is designed to provide exposure for players, it also provides competitive intelligence.
"Coaches aren't stupid," Townsend said. "They're going to go and look to see who the team they're playing has and who to look out for."
Two years ago, Newsome faced River Ridge in a playoff match. Townsend and then-coach Kathy Dodd had a clear picture of River Ridge's most dangerous player thanks to research on MaxPreps.com and the team's Web site.
"I mean, we'd never seen this team before, but we knew who their best player was," Townsend said. "The Web site had goals, shots, how many corners she had taken, everything. It wasn't hard to figure out who their big gun was, and we walked all over them, 5-1, that night."
Started in August 2002, MaxPreps.com started small but began continued to grow. It was acquired in 2007 by the CBS Corp. The site was especially well-received by participants of the smaller sports, such as soccer, which don't get the same exposure as football and basketball teams. The site also touts its usefulness in providing a network for fans, athletes and even college coaches.
Unlike football, where it's hard to find a team that doesn't enter stats on the site, some soccer coaches have decided not to advertise their players to potential opponents.
"That's part of the reason we don't (enter stats) but another is just time," Bloomingdale coach Sue Peet said. "But I sure don't mind going on (MaxPreps) to take a look at who we're playing, either."
Another major difference between the smaller sports and football is the availability of knowledge. The Florida High School Sports Association mandates that football coaches exchange game tapes the week before they play. Therefore, putting stats on MaxPreps.com has little effect, considering that the coaches will be watching film anyway.
"I really just don't want teams outside of Hillsborough County to know what we've got," Townsend said. "The less they know, the better."
Herrera returns: When Bloomingdale star Aileen Herrera tore her anterior cruciate ligament this summer at a Florida state soccer camp, it was assumed that the senior defender was done for the season.
"Never in a million years did I think she'd play again for us,"' Peet said.
Herrera returned to the field Jan. 16 against Wharton, scoring the first goal in the Bulls' 3-1 win against the Wildcats.
Herrera, who has had both ACLs repaired, played about 15 minutes against Wharton.
Peet praised her work ethic and devotion. "She's just a natural leader who has great insight into the game. You never have to tell her to do something. She takes the initiative and gets it done beforehand."