For Tony Smith and the Lely girls soccer team it has been a season of learning for both.
Smith coached at Marco Island Charter Middle School where he had outstanding success.
He came to a team that had won a record 15 games last season, but returned just four seniors. Freshman and sophomores dominate his young team.
Then injuries struck. Sophomore Beatrice Riza, a starter a year ago, and freshman Jordan Giles went down for the season with knee injuries and other teammates have been nagged by lingering injuries that are just part of the game. When Amy and Denise Molina, moved out of state Smith lost another soild pair.
With that said, Smith says his team has adapted to his style of play. Only two members of the team haven’t scored a goal.
“That’s a reflection of how I like to see the game played,” he said. “Also they have been playing more consistently and continue to improve in passing. If anything, I would like to see more aggressive play from our scorers.”
Lely, 8-7-8-3 plays it last season game at First Baptist Academy at 7 p.m. today.
It goes into Class 3A-District 12 playoff action as the number 4 seed, hosting Golden Gate at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
They shut out Golden Gate, 8-0, in their recent meeting.
Ahead of them are No. 1 Estero, No. 2 Riverdale and No. 3 Naples.
In their only meeting Estero easily handled Lely, 9-1, tied Riverdale, 3-3, and lost twice to Naples in close games.
“Lely is playing better and our seniors, Justine Giles, Hannah Heidenreich, Dulce Olalde and Veronica Evely will be seriously missed,” Smith said.
“I don’t know how far we can go in the playoffs, but we’ll give every opponent a battle.”
Smith considers sophomore Colleen Evely, Veronica’s sister, most improved.
“She brings great energy into the game,” Smith said, and with her personality there is never a dull moment.”
On Monday night Lely hosted Palmetto Ridge, with the game resulting in a 1-1 tie. Goalie Frankie Archaki made nine stops, with two of them being from point blank.
Lely’s only goal was by freshman Jesica Andrade, on a pass from freshman Jennifer Carter.
“Both teams had opportunities and both played well on defense,” Smith said. “We will need to stay strong on defense and do more on offense in the playoffs.”