Matanzas Pirates girls soccer went 7-14-1 last season.
Coach Tony Benvenuto is in his first season with the girls program, coming over from the boys program, and he has the girls team off to a 3-2-1 start.
Last season, the girls team went 7-14-1, but most of the top players have returned.
Defender Victoria Ecker is a workhorse, Sarah Carey brings ball skills to the team and freshman Gabby Paiz could be one of the area’s top goal-scoring threats. Paiz already has nine goals and five assists through the team’s first six games. One issue: Benvenuto said the team doesn’t have a clear starting goalkeeper. The projected starter, Megan Boyd, has had medical issues, so Stephanie Grebe will give it a try.
Benvenuto projects the team will rely heavily on its defenders such as Ecker, sophomore Alyssa Santos and freshmen Abby Barker and Gabby Foran.
Paiz, Leana Lourenco and T’shai Payne will spark the offense. Payne is returning from a knee injury which kept her out all of last season; senior forward Nicole Catoggio will also make an impact. Junior Taylor Haire is moving from the outside midfielder position to play center-mid, and Stephanie Giminez will provide an offensive boost as an outside midfielder.
Benvenuto said the Pirates compete in one of the toughest districts in the state; the Class 4-A state champion in the last three years has been from their district, which includes Bartram Trail, Ponte Vedra, Nease, Creekside and Clay high schools.
“It will be very tough to reach the state playoffs this year,” Benvenuto said. “I’m trying to implement a style of play that the girls have never played before, but I’m confi dent that by the time of the district tournament, my squad will be ready to compete with any team.”
Benvenuto said the goal for the girls team this season is to finish above .500 and win at least one district game.
“We have a very talented and young team,” Benvenuto said. “We have four freshmen starting, and we may go through some growing pains, but the future of MHS girls soccer is very bright.”