In early July, when heat and humidity is no one’s friend, Leon girls soccer coach Tony Kidd made no enemies.
That’s because his team of six seniors led a group that bought into conditioning at intense 20-minute intervals in preparation for what has becoming a highly successful regular season.
“It takes a lot of fitness to run this style of offense,” said Kidd, who is employing a 4-3-3 attack and may need his midfielders to run 80 yards on a given play. “It’s all feather in their caps for doing it.”
Leon is 12-2-4 overall and is 7-0-1 in District 2-4A. The district tournament kicks off today with the play-in game between Columbia and Gainesville. The winner will face the Lions on Wednesday. Leon has received stellar play from midfielders Bibiana Nunez, Isabel Nunez and Maddy Keenan, which gives Kidd confidence that this year will be different than the past few.
“We have talent,” Kidd said. “A lot of times before we had to survive on just fitness and toughness. This year, we have more skill. We’ve been trying to run this scheme for years, but this is the first team that’s been able to do it.”
Second-seeded Lincoln (15-2-1, 6-2) will host and square off with third-seeded Chiles (5-7-2, 3-3-2) on Wednesday night with the district final slated for Friday night.
“We’ve beaten Chiles twice and we lost bad to Leon the last time (5-1), but I don’t feel the score represented how the game went,” said first-year Trojans coach Jono Williams, who boasts dynamic scorers in Simone Nelson (12 goals, seven assists) and Tifara Clark (10 goals, six assists). “I’d be confident if that’s who we ended up playing, but we’ve got to get past Chiles first, and that’s not going to be an easy task.”
In the 1A tournament, district winner Maclay (9-5-4, 8-0) hosts three Monday quarterfinals. The Marauders must wait for the semifinals Wednesday, where they will face the Lafayette-John Paul II winner, with the championship Friday.
In 2A, it’s all about redemption for the Florida High girls, which fell at the hands of Wakulla last year in the district final despite a phenomenal regular season.
The Seminoles (19-4-2, 12-0 District 2-2A) are sitting pretty as the top seed in seven-team district. At East Gadsden, Godby (9-11, 6-6) takes on Rickards (3-12, 3-8) at 3 p.m., East Gadsden gets Taylor County (10-6-1, 7-4) at 5, and Wakulla (14-11, 10-2) duels Madison County at 7. Semifinals are Tuesday and the district final is Thursday night.
“It was a tough, tough loss in Wakulla,” said senior midfielder Anna Menendez, who has 34 goals and 26 assists on the year. “We knew from the start of the season that was something we needed to work on. That’s been our main focus. We’ve worked to build as a team. We have two wins against Wakulla. We’re extremely prepared.”
Florida High hopes to get senior midfielder Bethany Zamarron (17 goals, 13 assists) back after a recent illness wiped her out for several weeks, which would further complement Menendez and sophomore Taylor Cherry (19 goals, 17 assists), all in the hopes to reach the region tournament and make some noise.
“The team that wants it more over 80 minutes gets the win,” Seminoles coach Kyle Crawford said. “We lost some key players from last year, but we’ve had young girls step in replacement. The experience we’ve gotten is what makes the transition from regular season to postseason success.”