The games facing them are pretty much the same, and the circumstances are remarkably similar, but the players of Seminole's girls soccer team are entering this weekend's state tournament like last year's never happened. "They have to get to this state final and then work from there," said Warhawks coach Steve Kuplicki, whose team lost 1-0 to Lake Mary in last year's state final. "We've got seven seniors on this team who would love to cap off this season by winning state. But our first obstacle is Lake Brantley. If we're fortunate enough to do that, then we can see it as the same situation."
Seminole (22-0-1) has followed a path very much like last year's.
Tonight at 8 at Orlando Bishop Moore, the Warhawks will play Altamonte Springs-Lake Brantley (24-1-2) for a chance to snag the only accomplishment that eluded them in 1989.
Coconut Creek and Miami Killian will play in today's other semifinal. Today's winners will play at 7 p.m. Saturday for the 4A state championship.
The offensive talent on this year's Seminole team would make winning that title seem even more realistic than in 1989. While last year's squad primarily was fueled by just one big scoring threat - Beth Elias - this year's group has three. Michelle Demko (37 goals), Emily Shapiro (25) and Pam Texel (19) all are skilled and experienced forwards capable of producing scoring opportunities from any point on the field.
"We have three forwards and three midfielders who can put the ball away," Kuplicki said. "But I feel just as good about what we can do defensively. Lake Brantley seems to set up most of its game around one player (Beth Schafer). We're looking to go and try to be real strong defensively."
Chances are good Seminole will find that defensive sturdiness. The same Warhawks team that has scored 133 goals this season has surrendered just 12 in 23 games. Senior goalkeeper Kathan Gilman, a fourth-year starter and perhaps the county's finest at her position, has recorded 13 shutouts.
"We've worked real hard to build up to Friday night and we have maturity and experience going for us," said Kuplicki. "But the girls are just going to take it one goal at a time. Statistically, we've been superb but you don't do it with numbers.
"We need to go out and prove what we can do on Friday."
And, this year, on Saturday too.
Girls Class 4A state soccer tournament
When: Today's semifinals are at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday's championship game is at 7 p.m. Where: Bishop Moore High School, Orlando.
Teams playing: Seminole (22-0-1), Altamonte Springs-Lake Brantley (24-1-2), Miami-Killian (11-6-1), Coconut Creek (18-1-2).
Seminole players to watch: Michelle Demko, forward; Kathan Gilman, goalkeeper; Emily Shapiro, forward; Pam Texel, forward; Caryn Wedlake, defender; Kristin Buckstein, midfielder.
How to get there: Take I-4 east to Par Avenue (exit 44). Turn left on Par and go to the second light (Edgewater Drive) and turn right. Go to the second light, which is the entrance to the school.