Building a successful soccer program normally takes several years. The players who set the winning tradition often graduate before the program can develop a playoff team.
However, in Freedom High School's second year as a school, its coaches have already developed soccer teams favored to win district titles, teams that continue to compete deep into the postseason.
Freedom Patriots boys coach Dennis Derflinger and girls coach Dave Outlaw have put together teams earning positions as No. 1 seeds for their respective district tournaments.
Speed, aggressiveness and decent ball control and distribution skills have helped the Lady Patriots post a 13-3-1 overall record and 9-0-1 district record going into the tournament.
Freshmen and sophomores dominate the girls' lineup.
The boys also have some impressive freshmen and sophomores, but they also have just enough seniors and juniors to contribute maturity.
Outside midfielder Derek Dyer is one of those seniors contributing to the successful 7-3-2 overall record and 7-0-2 district record of the Patriots' boys team.
Dyer transferred over from Jesuit High last summer to finish high school in his New Tampa neighborhood. He provides ball-control skills necessary to help move the team forward in the attacks and slow down attacks by opponents.
"I think part of our success is because of the area," Dyer said. "We are in a fast-growing community loaded with great club teams and players. The guys are already good at passing, finding the open player and carrying the ball down the wings to pass into the goal area from the outside.
"Most inexperienced players will try to challenge the middle, where nearly all opposing teams have their strength."
With their first 12 matches, the boys have scored 29 goals and given up 13.
"I think the key to our success so far has been the balance from front to back," Derflinger said. "Our forwards are very fast and have a knack of finding the open space. They also are good at flying down the wings with the ball."
Leading the forward attack are freshman Brian Watson and sophomore Jordan Schellhase.
Watson has seven goals and two assists and Schellhase has four goals and three assists.
The remaining scoring is spread out, with the midfield guiding the attack.
Sophomore captain Josh Root and freshmen Hector Castillo and Miguel Martes join Dyer in the midfield. All have good ball control and passing skills.
Root has scored five goals, Castillo has five goals and an assist, and Martes has six assists.
Sophomore sweeper Aaron Zarzeski anchors the back line. Derflinger describes him as a solid defender with great vision and excellent communication skills.
Helping on the defense are senior Eric Hebert, junior Matt Riesdorph and freshman Sam Martato.
Joe Phillips is another team captain, a senior and the keeper.
"He has made some spectacular saves and they seem to come naturally," Derflinger said. "He has four shutouts and does an amazing job against penalty kicks. Last year he made 190 overall saves."
Freedom High's female soccer players rely on their speed and aggressive play to keep opponents off guard.
"Finishing is a great asset the girls have," Outlaw said. "On offense, our speed allows us to push the attacks from the back. Defensively, we compact the field to narrow the opponent's real estate ... They are still learning, but they are so young. They have time to play for several years yet."
Outlaw said the back line plays with such intensity and tight marking, they force opponents to make mistakes and give up the ball.
Junior forward Jacquji Peek is the fastest player on the Freedom girls team. She helps set up attacks and has four goals.
Sophomore forward Erin Wilson is another speedster. She has nine goals.
At the center midfield position, sophomore co-captain Vanessa Rangel is the most integral player on the team, according to Outlaw.
"She makes things happen, has good vision and moves the team," Outlaw said.
Rangel has recorded 12 goals and 12 assists.
"The team has been bonding well together the entire season," Rangel said. "The defense is tough and the offense has plenty of patience to keep the ball moving long enough to wait for just the right pass or shot. Everybody wants to keep playing on into the playoffs. We want it bad."
Emily Simpson is the freshman keeper. She has nine shutouts and has allowed less than one goal per game.
Ashton Charles is another midfielder and a co-captain. She has four goals and five assists.
Juniors Christine McClelland and Jana Belflower are two other high-scoring forwards. McClelland has nine goals and 12 assists and Belflower has 10 goals and four assists.
Ansley Ballard and Marissa Magro are two additional members of the freshman class already helping the Patriots. Outlaw describes fullback Magro as lightning fast, and midfielder Ballard already has five goals and three assists.
"Our girls really enjoy playing soccer and even practicing together," Outlaw said. "They actually complain when we occasionally cancel a practice."