TAMPA – Tampa Prep's girls are hoping the biggest thing to come out of their Class 2A-Region 3 semifinal victory against Bradenton St. Stephen’s on Tuesday evening will manifest itself on Friday night as the Terrapins try to return to the state final four for the third successive season.
That thing? Confidence.
For a while, the Terrapins were a side somewhat lacking in self-belief. After putting aside some early jitters again on Tuesday, though, Coach Cindy Schofield believes the side is now ready to face the challenge West Palm Beach King’s Academy will pose them in the region final at 6 p.m.
“I think beating St. Stephen’s was a huge confidence-booster because we hadn’t really had any big wins on the year yet, so that was a big win for us,” Schofield said before the Terrapins drove south on Thursday evening. “Now we believe in ourselves, we believe in the team and we believe we’re going to win against anybody.”
Terrapins captain Jackie Rosenthal pointed to the youth on the side, with a number of sophomores playing key roles, as part of the reason for the dips in confidence the side has had.
“We’ve been playing against a lot of very hard teams, and we’ve been battling, so I don’t think everyone believes in ourselves as much as they should,” Rosenthal said. “I think the St. Stephen’s game taught us that we are capable of winning, and if we come together and we relax and we play to feet we can do it.”
Rosenthal’s return to the side for the past three games, the first the Terrapins win in the district final, has certainly provided a boost. After suffering a slight tear in her left meniscus, Rosenthal made the decision to return to the field to help her team any way she could. Schofield said as much as the Terrapins needed her abilities in the center of midfield, they needed Rosenthal’s vocal leadership on the field more.
“Her leadership role on the field was what we missed the most,” Schofield said. “She’s just our vocal leader on the field, when things are down she picks the girls up. Obviously then we can move Amber (Miller) back into defense, and it makes our backline a lot stronger, because Amber kind of slid into that center-mid role to cover for Jackie, so moving Amber back, our back four plus (goalkeeper) Jordan (Hatton) is awesome.”
Hatton has also been a pivotal player for the Terrapins. One of only three seniors on the side this season, Hatton’s leadership has come to the fore. The standout goalkeeper attributes that to the example she was set as a young player in the Terrapins’ program.
“Having those girls when I was younger above you as someone to look up to, I think it helped a lot,” Hatton said. “As I’ve gotten older, now that I’m a senior, I want to win more and I think I know what it takes. I know that I need to be the person the set the pace, to say that we need to step it up or we need to do better and just take control.”
Taking control early is exactly what the Terrapins will need to do against a King’s Academy side that has posted a pair of impressive victories to reach Friday’s region final. Schofield, though, believes her side is up to the task.
“We’ve been working on building their confidence week-in and week-out and practice and just making them believe in themselves, and they do,” Schofield said. “They’re ready.”
Can’t get to West Palm Beach for Tampa Prep’s region final? Follow the Tampa Bay Soccer Blog at twitter.com/tbsoccerblog for live game updates from 6 p.m. on Friday night.