Last season, St. Petersburg High’s girls soccer team made a historic playoff run that ended at the Class 4A state semifinals. The Green Devils graduated several key players from that team, but the goal of returning to the state remains realistic.
St. Petersburg is 12-2-2 with two regular-season games and a Pinellas Conference Athletic Conference championship match awaiting. Included in that are wins over Countryside and Clearwater Central Catholic as well as ties against Osceola and Palm Harbor University.
The losses came to East Lake and Largo during a five-day stretch in early December. Since then the Green Devils have not lost and appear to be rounding into playoff shape once again.
“I think they are starting to figure things out," St. Petersburg coach Rui Farias said. “The same thing happened to us last year. It took until about midseason before we figured things out."
Like last year, there is a good mix of youth and experience. The experience comes from players like seniors Holly Beaver, Hayden Fredericks, Sophia Vesely, Annie Dixon, Killian Kingsley, Madison Brunson and Alexa Goldberg.
Goldberg, who is committed to the University of Florida, will play goalkeeper for the Gators. That’s a position she also plays for her club team, but as a Green Devil she is a midfielder by design.
“I was told to do this," Goldberg said. “It helps me get my footwork on track to play in the SEC. You have to be sharp in every aspect. And it’s a lot of fun. I love playing it."
Goldberg was an integral part of last year’s run to the state tournament, leading an offense that scored 70 goals.
This year Goldberg thought she would have to carry more of the scoring burden before the season started. Then she heard about a freshman Ava Stoller joining the team.
Stoller is an all-around athlete who also happens to excel at basketball. Since basketball and soccer share the same season, Stoller figured she would just focus on basketball.
Then Farias called Stoller’s father to see if she would consider playing both. Stoller said her dad had to practically drag her to tryouts.
“When I went to tryouts I still didn’t think I was going to play," Stoller said. “And then after tryouts I was like, ‘I guess.'"
She has been juggling the sports ever since. There have been some conflicts where she has had to miss soccer games, but from now on she will be able to play for both teams. This past week, Stoller played in three soccer games and two basketball games. She also attended practices for both sports. And, yes, she said she has time for homework and sleep.
“I just try to play as many sports as I can," she said. “I played volleyball and in the spring I’ll play softball or flag (football). I haven’t decided which one yet."
Perhaps she’ll play both. Until then, Stoller will contribute in two sports. She is a starting midfielder/defender and one of the leading scoring threats for soccer. In basketball, she is the top player with 16.5 points per game.
“I’m better at basketball," she said.
“She’s actually better at soccer," Farias countered with a laugh.
From the start of the season, Stoller and Goldberg formed a bond. They play next to each other on the field and hang out off the field, at least when Stoller isn’t at a game or practice.
“At first I thought she was kind of weird so I stayed away from her," Stoller said.
Goldberg said it’s just part of the team’s chemistry.
“As seniors, I think we’re pretty welcoming," Goldberg said. “We’re not cold like you would think seniors would be. We’re all kind of weird so people can be weird with us.
“Honestly, the team chemistry is unbeatable. We’re all best friends."