Thursday, April 19, 2018
Sports

Young talent strives to keep Newsome soccer at top of its game

LITHIA — Taylor McNeff remembers standing with a friend on the metal bleachers, a seventh-grader swept up in the frenzied atmosphere of a packed stadium witnessing a classic between nationally ranked teams.

Three years ago, the Newsome girls soccer team waltzed through the regular season undefeated. The Wolves won two district and two region playoff matches by a combined 30-0 score, easily advancing to a region final showdown at home against George Jenkins.

Newsome, ranked No. 4 in the ESPN Rise Fab 50, opened up a 2-0 lead on the third-ranked Eagles and held on for a 2-1 victory that sent the Wolves to the state semifinals for the second time in school history.

"Watching that game, to see how much they wanted it and how hard they worked to get there definitely made me really excited to come and be a part of the team," McNeff said.

Karli Gutsche was there too, her older sister Karina a standout center-midfielder for a Wolves team that finished the 2010-11 season as Class 5A state runnerup, the highest achievement in the program's short lifetime.

"Seeing them go to states makes me want to get there so bad," Karli said. "I think we can make it. I think we can get that far."

Karli Gutsche, McNeff and her young teammates are leading a revival of sorts at Newsome.

The Wolves are 8-0 this season, winning consecutive matches against Plant, Plant City and Steinbrenner, three of Hillsborough County's best teams.

The Wolves have scored 45 goals and are averaging nearly six a game. They've allowed just two.

And they're doing it with a roster filled mostly with underclassmen.

Sophomore Lindsey Eaton leads the team with 10 goals. Freshman newcomer Peyton Smith has seven, including both goals in a 2-1 win against Plant and the lone tally to beat Plant City 1-0.

Gutsche, a junior stopper committed to Auburn, and McNeff, a sophomore sweeper, drive a defense that has shut out six of eight opponents.

"They play like they've been here for four years," seventh-year Newsome coach Kelly Townsend said. "And in big games, too. I mean, you can't ask for more than that."

The past two seasons have been disappointing for a Newsome program with ridiculously high standards, having won seven district titles and qualifying for the postseason all 10 years of the school's existence. In 2012, the Wolves were bounced from the playoffs in the first round, their earliest postseason exit. Last season, Newsome had its run of four straight district titles snapped and again failed to win a playoff game.

"None of my freshmen or sophomores even knows what it's like to win a district, so I think they're hungry," Townsend said.

The Wolves are hoping to return to the big stage this season, to play in a region final or state championship in front of a couple thousand fans. Along the way, maybe the next wave of young recruits will be watching from the stands, dreaming about the day they get to slip on a Newsome uniform.

"We still reminisce about that game against George Jenkins," said Claire Kartheiser, one of two seniors on the team. "We want to relive that experience."

Comments
Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

TAMPA – Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a broken ankle he sustained in a car accident in Louisiana last week, putting his status for the start of the season in jeopardy.General manager Jason Licht said Beckw...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

The 2018 NFL schedule won't be released until 8 p.m. tonight, but the Bucs' eight home games were posted early — and presumably accidentally — on the team's site, showing what would be a daunting start to the upcoming season.Multiple outl...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Out early: Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

Out early: Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

The Bucs' 2018 schedule won't be officially released until 8 p.m. with the rest of the league, but the Times has obtained a copy of the schedule, which shows a challenging start for Tampa Bay.The Bucs open with three division champions back-to-back &...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Bay area has ‘hit show’ again, thanks to USF

Bay area has ‘hit show’ again, thanks to USF

For the first time since its season commenced, the USF baseball team enters a weekend as the Bulls' feature sports attraction.Basketball ended last month, and spring football ended last Saturday, meaning would-be baseball fans no longer have reason t...
Updated: 4 hours ago
The Mallex Smith effect can take effect for Rays

The Mallex Smith effect can take effect for Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — Mallex Smith has style.Effervescent personality. Pop culture hipness. Sense of fashion with accoutrements.Now the Rays are going to find out if he has game.More specifically, enough game to be a front-line outfielder, even an i...
Updated: 5 hours ago
NHL makes right call in not suspending Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov

NHL makes right call in not suspending Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov

The NHL got it right.Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning's top scorer and best player so far in these playoffs, will play Saturday's Game 5 against New Jersey. He's not going to be suspended for his vicious hit on a Devils player in Tampa Bay's Game 4 vic...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Plant alumnus Rex Culpepper doing well in second chemo round at Syracuse

Plant alumnus Rex Culpepper doing well in second chemo round at Syracuse

Former Plant High quarterback Rex Culpepper recently started his second round of chemotherapy but is doing well and should return to football eventually, his college coach said Thursday morning."He's doing really good," Syracuse coach Dino Babers sai...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Life got you down? The Miracle League is back and making miracles again

Life got you down? The Miracle League is back and making miracles again

ST. PETERSBURG — An old friend is back in the lineup.The Kiwanis of Gulf Beaches Miracle League, which champions baseball for the physically and mentally challenged, returned with a flourish Saturday morning. We're better for it."This...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Nikita Kucherov scores two goals and delivers some big hits as the Lightning beats the Devils, 3-1, in a physical Game 4 that pushes Tampa Bay to within one win of clinching the series.Meanwhile, the Rays beat the Rangers to as Jake Faria pitche...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Meet the state’s top pole vaulter: River Ridge’s Stone Baker

Meet the state’s top pole vaulter: River Ridge’s Stone Baker

NEW PORT RICHEY — Long before he became the best pole vaulter in the state, Stone Baker was 12 years old and liked to play football.He didn't know a vaulting pole from a tennis racket.Then one day his friend, Evan Bales, asked him to come over ...
Updated: 8 hours ago