Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Preps: Tampa Prep finds confidence ahead of state semifinal

TAMPA – Reaching the FHSAA State Finals is becoming a habit for Tampa Prep’s girls program, who appeared relaxed and enjoying themselves the afternoon before they face Tallahassee Maclay in the Class 2A state semifinals on Friday afternoon at 12:45 p.m.

It’s easy to understand why. After struggling for confidence through the regular season, and even for parts of the district playoffs, the Terrapins appear to have more of a bounce in their step after overcoming three good teams to advance to Pepin Stadium.

“It’s the confidence, absolutely, because they believe in themselves now,” Terrapins coach Cindy Schofield said. “It’s a lot lighter at practice, they’re having fun with it, they want to win. The ones that were here two years ago when we won it, they know what it takes, and they’re going to carry the rest of them into it.”

Maybe the biggest reason for the emergence of that confidence has been the return of central midfielder Jackie Rosenthal. Sidelined with a slight tear in her right meniscus, Rosenthal’s return for the Terrapins in the district final allowed Amber Miller to return to her more familier defensive role, and that in turn has made the Terrapins a very tough team to break down offensively.

The Terrapins know that will need to continue against a Maclay team that swept to Tampa with a 5-0 victory against Rocky Bayou Christian on Friday night. Having faced, and defeated, a side with a similar resume to Maclay in West Palm Beach King’s Academy on Friday in the region final, though, the Terrapins say they won’t be intimidated by their opponents.

“I think we respect the fact that they’re going to be a good team, everyone in the final four is a good team, but I think we have the confidence now that we can go in and play to the best of our abilities, play hard and win,” goalkeeper Jordan Hatton said.

While the Terrapins defense has been solid in their three-game run through the region, one member of the team has been surprisingly quiet. Forward Colby Maffei leads Hillsborough County with 44 goals this season, but was held scoreless in the Terrapins past two games against St. Stephen’s and King’s. That may be a good sign, though, as a player of Maffei’s quality won’t usually be held in check for too long.

“She’s dangerous at any time,” Schofield said. “The thing with Colby is the defense can focus so much on her, and you have a Caroline Cheek or Jackie Rosenthal or Alyssa Bryant who can step up and score.

“(Colby’s) just got to stay calm and not try to do it all herself, and she hasn’t done that since the beginning of the season. She’s matured and she knows to play off her teammates.”

One thing the Terrapins will be able to rely on? Massive support. The school is letting its students make the short walk across Cass Street to attend the game, meaning the Terrapins will have a big crowd behind them.

“It’ll give us a lot of confidence,” defender Lauren Knoke said of the support. “I think just coming out strong, not being intimidated, coming out fast, good possession, that’s what’s going to keep us in the game.”

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