While TSSAA Division II-AA girls soccer teams duked it out in the first round of playoffs this week, the Bruisers enjoyed a few extra days of practice and preparation for the state quarterfinals, thanks to their first-place region finish.
The Bruisers secured the region’s top seed after shutout wins last week over Baylor and St. Cecilia Academy. “Winning region is a big deal because you get a home field advantage,” says Head Varsity Coach Patrick Winecoff. “Because we didn’t win the regular season for the East/Middle region last year, we had a tougher road going into state.”
Along with being able to bypass the first round of playoffs, GPS will get to host its state quarterfinal game this Saturday, October 20, at 2 p.m. The playoff game will combine the East/Middle Region with the West Region as the Bruisers take on St. Benedict at Auburndale Eagles. “We are healthy and have a home game,” Winecoff says. “We’re ready to play.”
What has been the team’s secret for success? An emphasis on finishing shots, Winecoff says. The Bruisers have tallied 73 goals in 16 games, amassing a robust number of shutouts along the way.
Five seniors lead this season’s team—captains Lane Lawrence, Kylie Eiselstein, and Myra Brock along with Megan Pfaffle and Anna Croxall. But underclassmen, including sophomores Sydney Morris and Ashley Grant and eighth-grader Kennedy Ball, have also proved to be integral to the team’s success on the pitch. The widespread talent among the grades has generated what GPS Assistant Varsity Coach Andy Sarjant refers to as a snowball effect of inspiration.
“The younger girls have a great respect for the upperclassmen which makes them aspire to perform at a high level,” Sarjant says. “From the other view, the older girls are looking at the younger ones and are so impressed by their skill level for their age that it is pushing them to be their best.”
Behind-the-games props were also given to Strength and Conditioning Coach Matt Green, especially for the recovery sessions he has designed for team. “As a result the girls have been less sore after a game and have experienced fewer injuries. We also aren’t seeing a performance drop-off from our athletes in the next game,” Winecoff says.
GPS enters the postseason games with a region record of 6-1-1 and an overall record of 12-1-3. With a win Saturday, the Bruisers will travel to Murfreesboro the following Thursday, Oct. 25, for the semifinal game. The final game is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 26.
The Bruiser soccer team is led by Head Varsity Coach Patrick Winecoff; Assistant Varsity Coaches include Andy Sarjant, Ashley Linehart, and David Barrueta. GPS Athletic Director is Jay Watts.