The Lady Seahawk soccer team has yet to win a game, but that hasn’t stopped coach Concepcion Ledezma’s squad from buckling down.
Last month, the team fell Dec. 11 loss at home, 7-0, to Rutherford, on Dec. 15 at home, 8-0, to Rocky Bayou Christian; and Dec. 19 at home, 7-0, to Wakulla.
Ledezma said the Strickland sisters, both at First Baptist Christian School, are leading the effort.
“I'm pleased with the progress of junior co-captain Lydia Strickland and sophomore Eva. Both of them put in the work during the offseason, and they prove it on the field with their superior conditioning and heart in the midst of the losses,” he said.
“Both participated in the voluntary offseason workouts, along with a handful of other players, which was run by their father, assistant coach Jeff Strickland,” Ledezma said. “The work definitely shows during the matches, no question about it.”
The sisters also ran cross country for Seahawks coach Kati Hathcock, which did an excellent job of preparing them for soccer.
“The sisters rarely get subbed in games, proving to be very durable,” said Ledezma. “Lydia, a natural forward, was asked to carry the defensive load as a midfielder, and she has responded admirably. She has become our best defensive midfielder on the team. Her work during the off-season shows.”
Lydia leads the team with 42 wins of the loose balls against opponents. Teammate Rosie Davis, a first-year junior, is second with 30.
“Eva has been a stable rock on defense, which consists of three middle schoolers as starters,” said the coach. “Late last year, she was moved from outside defense to sweeper, which requires her to survey the field and assign the marking of opposing attackers. Eva has grown as a leader on and off the field; she's become well-respected by her fellow teammates who start on defense, who include seventh graders Jostyn Tipton, Aryauna Benjamin, and Maya Itzkovitz.”
Ledezma said in addition to the Stricklands’ play, he has been pleased with the play of the young defenders in front of starting goalkeeper Becca Willis, the team's lone senior, and eighth-grader Emily Smith.
“It's really exciting for me and Jeff (Strickland) when they talk about returning next season. I've been hinting to the team that what they do in the final month of the season, plus their commitment in the offseason will be a factor on whether they'll make the cut for next year's team,” he said.
“During a recent team talk, each team member agreed that our objective is to ultimately become competitive. So the girls, especially the experienced players, know I must see individual improvement during the home stretch of this season, plus off-season commitment to have a chance to wear the Seahawk uniform next season,” Ledezma said. “As well as continuing to teach the fundamentals, Jeff and I will be watching and evaluating.
“Overall, I've been pleased with the middle schoolers, which make up half the team. That's a tough role the young players have on their plate, facing high school teams with all high school girls,” he said.
One example of an up-and-comer is eighth-grader Adia Barber. “Lydia and Eva were able to recruit this newcomer into the team from cross country. Despite never having played soccer before, Adia has proven to be very coachable,” Ledezma said. “She's a quick learner and it helps that she's among the best-conditioned athlete on the team, splitting time between outside defense and midfield. She's learning to pressure opponents with possession.”
Also on the team are eighth grader Alondra Jimenez, seventh grader Natalie Gibbens, sophomore Andrea Cooper, seventh grader Laelah Carranza, seventh grader Jada Allen, freshman Meredith Alford, freshman Brianna Cooper, eighth grader Emily Smith and junior Camille Williams.