• Crescent City’s Laura Cruz (7) and Palatka’s Jordan Nearing (22) go after a ball early last season. (CHRIS DeVITTO / Palatka Daily News)

Prep Girls Soccer 2016-17: 'Her' Team Now

Rams' coach Larsen in comfort zone entering third year

Jacqueline Larsen knows this year’s version of the Interlachen High School girls soccer team is “her” team.

“I’ve always felt my younger girls have felt the confidence in me,” she said. “But now every player on this team has played just for me. I don’t feel like there are two or three separate cliques on this team. I feel it’s all one team.”

And with that, the Rams may have a better finish come this winter as most of the team returns to be a force within District 5-2A and challenge Santa Fe, Gainesville P.K. Yonge and Keystone Heights.

While the Rams look for what could be their first postseason berth in 11 seasons, both Palatka and Crescent City look to try to build toward the future with young teams.

The following is a look at the three Putnam County girls soccer teams.

INTERLACHEN

The heart of the Rams’ club is the junior class, led by 10-goal scorer Amanda Quinby, the 2014-15 Daily News Player of the Year, sweeper Emilee Hughes and midfielder Cory Lloyd. Then there’s a very vibrant sophomore class, spurred on by striker Emily Lundy, who had 11 goals and 15 assists a year ago, stopper Maria Soto and left wing Esmeralda Santiago.

“I really believe we can work together as a team,” said the 23-year-old Larsen, a Daily News Player of the Year in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons as Jacqueline Fraga. “I see it now, even three games into the season. I was waiting on both Amanda and Emily to connect with one another the same way that Alana Christian (also a two-time player of the year and former teammate) and I did when we played. It was just nice to see it happen because we didn’t have that last year. And Emily and Amanda are good friends, so they get along both on and off the field.”

Larsen acknowledges this is a young team with only two seniors, but a “different” group, as she called it.

“They realize they’re good,” she said. “They still have a world of work to go to move ahead, but they are still moving and growing.”

And make no bones about it. Larsen and her players are thinking big the next two years in a district that features tough Santa Fe and good teams like P.K. Yonge and Keystone Heights, the latter coached by former Palatka High boys coach Roger Laurent.

“Do I think we’re closer to the top? Absolutely,” she said. “And if we break through, we’re going to do it with this group, whether if it’s this year as juniors or next year as seniors. We’re going to prove our worth and how well we play and hopefully have some of our players leave here on scholarship.”

CRESCENT CITY

Now in his second year as head coach, Drew Richardson sees improvement with his Raiders after struggling to a 6-13-4 season. 

He has three of his best players back in senior veteran defender Laura Cruz, All-County sophomore defender Andrea Gomez and All-County standout freshman forward Jenny Galvan, who put in 17 goals and eight assists as an eighth-grader. But other than Cruz, defender Rhonda Martinez and midfielder Raquel Chavez, the rest of the team is underclassmen.

How quickly these Raiders grow will depend on how well they work together on the field, according to Richardson.

“I like our defense so far,” he said. “They’re coming together like I thought. The scores don’t show it, though. We haven’t found our length (in shots) at midfield and forward.”

And if Galvan gets help up front, things may be a lot more rewarding for the Raiders.

“A team like Fort White remembered her last year and they put defenders on her all night,” Richardson said. “I need to find one other person to score and help her and she’d be able to get going offensively. If not, Jenny will see a lot of what Fort White showed.

“Our goal is to win 10 games and try to finish in the middle of our district,” Richardson said. “They may be high expectations, but we’ll do our best to get there.”

PALATKA

The Panthers had one of their most productive seasons in program history last year, going 16-7-2.

Now comes the struggle with players like McKinsey Browning, Haley Nunley and last year’s Daily News Player of the Year, Haley Ridenour, graduating.

But Jordan Nearing returns after leading the county in scoring with 30 goals and adding six assists, as does goalkeeper Courtney Mikell, who had a 2.29 goals per game average a year ago and stopped 198 shots. Mikell, Nearing, midfielder Olivia Harris and midfielder Micalleh Parker are this year’s captains, all seniors. Three-year varsity players Jasmine Segovia, a center-back, and Emily Sherwood, a defender, also bring experience to a team needing to transition quickly after last year.

“This year’s team will be relatively young and inexperienced,” said Dominic Piscitello, the dean of all Palatka High coaches, starting his 11th year. “With key plays returning this season, I will look to the veterans to show leadership to the younger players. This season will be judged on how well we can build a strong core for the future of the program in Palatka. I see this as a rebuilding year. As the coach, I will need to have patience with the development of the program and work hard to teach the game of soccer to many of the players.”

CRESCENT CITY

Head coach: Drew Richardson, second year (career: 6-13-4).

Assistant coach: Ashlee Swales (junior varsity).

Last season: 6-13-4.

Roster: Laura Cruz (senior defender); Rhonda Martinez (sr. defender); Raquel Chavez (sr. midfielder); Barbie Guerrero (junior midfielder); Kaitlyn Ontiveros (jr. midfielder); Anayeli Baltazar (jr. midfielder-goalie); Lisette Aboytes (jr. goalkeeper); Andrew Gomez (sophomore defender); Gabby Cruz (so. midfielder); Joanna Aragon (so. midfielder-goalkeeper); Zahria Miller (so. defender); Gisselle Servin (so. midfielder); Yessenia Perez (so. defender); Anayelli Jaramillo (freshman midfielder); Jenny Galvan (fr. forward); Erin Sullivan (fr. forward-midfielder); Yulisa Maldonado (fr. defender); Katie Wolfe (fr. forward).

INTERLACHEN

Head coach: Jacqueline Larsen, third year (career: 18-20-2).

Assistant coach: Michael Larsen (volunteer).

Last season: 11-12.

Roster: Tionna McClain (sr. midfielder); Janaseair Perry (sr. midfielder-defender); Amanda Quinby (jr. forward); Hailey Tibbs (jr. defender); Lacie White (jr. midfielder); Kloe Harrier (jr. wing-defender); Emily O’Hara (jr. fullback); Emilee Hughes (jr. sweeper); Cory Lloyd (jr. midfielder); Holly Gregory (jr. defender); Emily Lundy (so. forward); Esmeralda Santiago (so. wing); Adalia Calero (so. goalkeeper); Keri Swift (so. midfielder-defender); Maria Soto (so. stopper); Skyler Quinby (so. wing); Maggie Ricks (fr. midfielder); Dallas Rutledge (fr. wing).

PALATKA

Head coach: Dominic Piscitello, 11th year (career record: 69-137-26).

Assistant coaches: Tracy Piscitello (varsity), Dominic Piscitello Jr. (varsity), Victor Cabrera (JV).

Last season: 16-7-2.

Roster: Micalleh Parker (sr. midfielder); Jordan Nearing (sr. forward); Courtney Mikell (sr. goalkeeper); Olivia Harris (sr. midfielder); Abrielle Robertson (sr. goalkeeper); Jasmine Segovia (jr. cornerback); Emily Sherwood (jr. defender); Bre Rivers (jr. striker); Heaven Hardyman (jr. defender); Payton Pellicer (so. defender); Alexis Lee (so. striker); Samantha Stephenson (so. midfielder); Tynia Belton (so. midfielder); Mikeria Colson (so. midfielder); Kaaliyah Roberts (so. defender); Lilli Wallace (so. defender); Julia Mertes (so. forward); Jossilyn Gullett (so. forward).

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