Friday, September 21, 2018

MIA Girls Soccer Team Strongest Ever


Clockwise from top row left: Head Coach, Jim Watt; Asst. Coach, Darrin Palumbo; Asst. Coach John Ball; Morgan Maile, 9th; Elizabeth Schultheis, 12th; Teagan Havemeier, 11th; Ellie Ball, 10th; Savannah Hiemlr, 10th; Morgan Jones, 11th; Olivia Watt, 12th; Anna Chamberlin, 11th; Jenna Palumbo, 10th; Julia Wagner, 12th; Kierra Polley, 9th; Kayla Kladis, 12th; Hailey Cartwright, 9th; and Danya Zarate, 12th; Missing: Lauren Faremouth, 10th. Photos by Barry Gwinn

Clockwise from top row left: Head Coach, Jim Watt; Asst. Coach, Darrin Palumbo; Asst. Coach John Ball; Morgan Maile, 9th; Elizabeth Schultheis, 12th; Teagan Havemeier, 11th; Ellie Ball, 10th; Savannah Hiemlr, 10th; Morgan Jones, 11th; Olivia Watt, 12th; Anna Chamberlin, 11th; Jenna Palumbo, 10th; Julia Wagner, 12th; Kierra Polley, 9th; Kayla Kladis, 12th; Hailey Cartwright, 9th; and Danya Zarate, 12th; Missing: Lauren Faremouth, 10th. Photos by Barry Gwinn

Coach Jim Watt, in his fourth year as the Marco Island Academy girls soccer team head coach, thinks he may have his strongest team ever this year.

Coach Jim Watt

Coach Jim Watt

Watt is excited about the possibilities. But then, when isn’t he excited? This year is different, he says. Only one member of last year’s 8-9-1 team has graduated; all the rest are back. “But that’s not the best news,” Watt says. “We have added four super talented girls who have been playing soccer all their lives.” Three are freshmen coming from Marco Island Charter Middle School, and the fourth is a transfer from Lely High School. “These girls are ready to step up – now,” Watt says, “and will give us a lot more depth than we had last year.”

“We are starting to get better athletes,” says Watt, “They know of our team culture, conditioning program, and toughness. They want to be a part of it.”

Quite a difference from four years ago, when the team was one of the district’s weaker teams, and hadn’t won a game in two years. (They would ago another year, Watt’s first as coach, without winning one.) But it is the seniors who will be leading the way, says Watt. Between them they have played in 54 varsity games for the Lady Rays. “That gives them a mental edge over the competition,” Watt said, “They know what to expect and will be ready for anything.” Additionally, he says, “they have totally bought into our conditioning program, which kept them in most games last year.”

Watt didn’t want to get in to who will be playing in which positions. He hasn’t decided yet. “But I can tell you this,” he adds, “You can expect a lot more downfield acceleration and some crazy stuff around the net.” Watt all but drools when thinking of the talent he has this year to make this happen.

MIA competes in District 8, Class A Division, comprised of nine schools of roughly 300 students or less. Last year for the first time, MIA was able to actually host a district playoff game, because of its good record. Unfortunately they lost that game (to Canterbury) which ended their season. “This year, things should be different,” says Watt, “Our goal is to make it into the regional tournament. The girls have been giving me everything they got this year, Watt says. “They give every ounce of energy they have.”

The girls love their coach and share his enthusiasm. “Everyone is pumped up for the season,” says Danya Zarate, one of last year’s top scorers. “We all know we are a much stronger and more experienced team,” she adds. In a huddle between practice drills, the girls articulated their team and personal goals for the season. “You could sense their focus and eagerness, and determination,” Zarate said. Their goals are a reflection of their coach – advancing to regionals, improving ball skills, starting each game with a strong mindset, and being the intimidating team, right from the start. Combining that with Coach Watt’s promised accelerated attacks and “crazy stuff around the net,” this should be a wildly entertaining season.

Season opens Monday, November 13 at Southwest Florida Christian. Home opener is Friday November 17 v. Community School at Winterberry Park.

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