TAMPA – As well as his side has played, and as close as it is to its goal of a state championship, Berkeley Prep girls soccer coach Ken Roberts’ mantra always stays the same.
“One half at a time,” Roberts said. “They know what they have to do, one half at a time.”
The Buccaneers face Pensacola Catholic on Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. at the University of Tampa’s Pepin Stadium in the FHSAA Class 3A Girls State Semifinals with a couple of players carrying some bumps and bruises, but confident they can continue the run of form that has gotten them to this point. The key to that, according to Roberts, has been the performance of the Buccaneers’ midfield. The quartet of Amber Famiglietti, Becca Hurst, Danielle Manning and Megan Williams have raised their games come playoff-time, leading to three straight dominant victories in the region competition.
“The focus of our game is the movement of the ball, and that focus comes through our central midfielders, and I think both of them have lifted their games as far as the transition of play and the way we move the ball across the field,” Roberts said. “At the same time, I can look at our defensive group, as a team I think we’ve played much stronger defensive matches, having the opportunity to play with Morgan (Orobello) in goal for the last three games I think lifted the level of play of our defensive unit, and I think also the players on the offensive end have lifted their game as well.
“I think every one of them have been working on their goals and they’re setting their sights on certain things they want to accomplish before the season is over.”
Berkeley has lost in the semifinals each of the three times it has advanced to the final four before, but none of the current squad has reached this stage before. Roberts believes the biggest key to the Buccaneers advancing to Saturday’s final will be their patience, which could get tested by a Pensacola team that has been tight defensively throughout the season, and advanced to the final four with a penalty shootout victory against Jacksonville Bolles on Friday.
“I think we’re going to have to work for our opportunities,” Roberts said. “From what I can see, they’ve had a a great season, had 18 shutouts, so they haven’t given up a lot of scoring, so we’re going to need to be patient, we’re going to need to find our passes in the box to finish. Their ‘keeper has come up big for them in a number of matches as well, so it’s going to be about patience, going to be about finding the openings and finishing the opportunities we do get.”