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St. Edward’s girls soccer getting a kick out of sudden success

STORY BY CASEY STAVENHAGEN (Week of December 21, 2023)
Photo of St. Edward’s School Girls’ Head Soccer Coach Alexandra Pulido, a 2011 St. Ed’s alum.

The perfect weather for soccer – gray skies, a cool breeze and a slight drizzle illuminating a damp pitch – provided the backdrop for Saint Edward’s girls soccer to do what it has done all year: win and win big.

Pirates players said they entered the year, coming off a 4-9-1 record in 2022-23, with no high expectations.

But after a dominant first half of the season, Saint Edward’s brings only one loss through eight matches home for Christmas break.

Led by first-year Head Coach Alexandra Pulido, a Saint Edward’s alum who worked as an assistant under former coach Jeffrey Lamscha, girls soccer has established itself as this year’s team to watch in the winter. Pulido said the main difference between this year and last has been the focus on simply staying positive and having fun.

“Giving these girls an opportunity, giving them the best three months that I can as far having fun, learning the sport, being a team, working as a team and making memories more than anything. I think that’s my philosophy so far,” Pulido said.

In their last match of 2023, the Pirates traveled to Tradition Prep in Port Saint Lucie. On the heels of the team’s first loss – a 4-0 defeat to Melbourne Central Catholic – just two days before, the Pirates bounced back with their third shutout win of the season and scored seven goals of their own. Melbourne Central Catholic is the only team that has scored more than one goal on Saint Edward’s.

Before Tradition Prep had even put up a shot against Saint Edward’s, senior Elizabeth Campbell had already notched a hat trick. The scoreboard read 5-0 in Saint Edward’s favor when Tradition took its first shot in the 70th minute. By the final whistle, Campbell had netted four goals, and Saint Edward’s won by a score of 7-0.

“It’s just exciting to help the team win but also trying to be there for people and help them get the goals too,” Campbell said. “I’m not really going at the goal; I’m just trying to play the game. I didn’t realize how many I got until the very end.”

On the 24-player roster, Campbell is one of the seven returning players from last year. Pulido said Campbell has been a versatile player all over the field.

“She’s just quick to the ball and she knows what she’s doing and she’s hungry for it,” Pulido said of Campbell. “She’s one of those players who has a lot of compassion for her other teammates as well and when she has the ball to let it go she will, but if you give her that lane she’s going to take it all day.”

Junior Caroline Langsam, whom the team calls “Bear,” holds the Pirates’ defense together.

“She’s been holding the back,” Pulido said. “This year I kind of asked her to come out of her shell and she’s been controlling the back the entire time, no matter who I put back there.”

Campbell and junior Natalee Rogers are the Pirates’ two captains. Rogers said the team’s defense, highlighted by Langsam, senior Jacqueline Sylvia and eighth-grader Tajani Gayle, has supported each other well and served as Saint Edward’s backbone.

“I think we’ve gotten some new good additions to the team and we’ve switched some positions around,” Rogers said. “We’re just kind of closer as a team in all, so I think it has really helped us play together and play a united game.”

When the team returns to action after the holiday break, the expectations will likely be higher as the pressure of tournament play approaches. With only one game to go before the Sunshine State Athletic Association Tournament on Jan. 13-14, Pulido said the team uses the upcoming level of competition as motivation.

“We’re also thinking about districts. I think every game that we go through, we always have districts in the back of our mind,” Pulido said. “We know, no matter what our record is, once we hit districts, it’s zero. We do everything with districts in our mind.

“I think that we’ve surprised everyone and its been fun surprising everyone and just keep going one game at a time,” she continued. “Pressure, I don’t think we feel it.”

Following the SSAA tournament, Saint Edward’s will only have two more games to perfect its strategy before districts kick off in late January. Campbell said the Pirates follow the “no expectations” precedent from the early season and instead focus on being well prepared.

“There is some pressure, but we know we can’t let it get to us,” Campbell said. “We just go game by game and whatever happens, happens. Of course we want to win, but we know that we have just got to trust ourselves and that what we work for is going to happen.”