TAMPA — They have come oh so close, losing by a single goal in the state semifinals three of the past four years.
“We definitely have some unfinished business,” said Academy of the Holy Names senior Caroline Lamoreux, who has been there for the past two state semifinal soccer losses. “If we don’t win (a Class 3A state title) I think we will all be very disappointed.”
What have Jaguar players learned from the near misses? What do they need to change to alter this year’s outcome?
Lamoreux and fellow senior Olivia Tremonti didn’t hesitate.
“Intensity,” Tremonti said. “We need to keep our intensity high all the way through. I think last year we were burned out emotionally by the time we played (in the state semifinal).”
“We didn’t bring enough energy (to the state semifinal, which ended in a 1-0 loss to Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons),” Lamoreux said. “We were flat.”
AHN coach Kareem Escayg, who helped the University of Tampa win a national soccer title in 2001, says it’s a level of intensity that has to be learned.
“Last year they could not sustain the intensity (through the state semifinal) because I still don’t think they understood what it took to keep it going,” Escayg said. “Maintaining that intensity is a mindset. Getting to that level is a process.”
Escayg believes this year’s team, many of whom return from last year’s campaign, have learned their lesson.
Yes, many of them are underclassmen — including freshmen Linnea Nestor, Ava Politz and Mia Fairchild, sophomores Nicole Sakre and Caroline Gomez and junior Kate Cohen along with scoring threats in sophomore Britton Byrd and junior Casey Buckley — but they all have that experience of playing on last year’s big stage.
It also doesn’t hurt that the Jags have some solid senior leadership in players like Lamoreux, Tremonti, Madison Kurtz and Francesca Ferreri.
Escayg, in his ninth season at AHN, says there are none in this group, then adds, “If you come in with that ‘I’m a superstar mentality,’ it’s not going to work out well for you. We are a team here.”
Talent? There is plenty to go around, all over the field and off the bench.
That’s part of the reason Escayg says the Jags (4-1-1) play a patient, possession offense and a zone-type defense: “We believe everybody is going to do their jobs well.”
That sentiment shows up in the stats where no player shines much brighter than the rest. Kurtz, for instance, leads the team with five goals scored, but right behind her are Buckley and Byrd with four apiece.
On Monday, AHN was running through another practice, high with energy and intensity.
“Many of us have been together for a long a time,” Tremonti said. “I think this team is working together better than any (AHN) team I’ve played on. … We also know that we have to keep up that intensity all the way to the end. I think we all understand that now.”