Hernando snaps 5-match
losing skein to defending
By TONY CASTRO
BROOKSVILLE – On any given Sunday in the NFL, anyone can and usually does, win.
Among the prep ranks in local girls’ soccer, Hernando High has basically been every team’s piñata.
Interestingly, the Leopards captured the first 12 lifetime meetings against Weeki Wachee High School from 2011-16.
In WWHS’ third season under Danny Fierro things changed.
Since then, Fierro’s troops have rolled up five consecutive wins over HHS heading into Tuesday night’s 3A-7 rematch at Tom Fisher Memorial Stadium.
In the first meeting, the Hornets maintained its dominance tattooing the Leopards on Nov. 28, 8-1.
Two matches later, HHS senior and offensive catalyst center-mid Madison Griffin got tangled up with a Pasco High player during the Dec. 3 match in Brooksville.
Punches were thrown. Players were ejected and subsequently punished by the FHSAA.
According to HHS skipper David Shrader, since the Pasco High player swung first at Griffin, she was suspended the maximum six weeks.
The FHSAA does not tolerate altercations of any kind and as result, Griffin was also suspended for six weeks.
On appeal, however, she received a five-week sentence.
In the interim, HHS played five matches positing a 3-2 slate, besting three below .500 programs: Zephyrhills, Springstead and Central.
But heading into Tuesday’s rematch against the defending Hernando County Hornets, the Purple and Gold hadn’t registered a quality win in over a decade.
After a scoreless first half, Hernando ( (4–3 county, 4-5 3A-7, 6-4-0 overall) stunned the sluggish Hornets (2-2-1 county, 4-3-2 3A-7, 5-3-2 overall) behind a trio of solo goals by Griffin (in her first game back since her suspension), Bricyn Wiley and Gianna Huber in an impressive 3-0 shutout.
Hernando, which out-shot the visitors, 11-8, seemed a step ahead of the flat-footed Hornets.
Junior goalie Mikaya Henchey recorded five saves for the Hornets while HHS senior goal tender Jessica Flaherty responded with seven saves for her fifth clean sheet of the season.
Not only had HHS stopped the bleeding in the series against WWHS, but improved in the lifetime series to 13-5 overall.
The victory was significant being HHS’ first over a winning teams in years.
Recapping the scoring
Though Weeki Wachee out-shot Hernando, 4-3 across the first 40 minutes of play, the hosts misfired on three point-blank opportunities to dent the scoreboard.
At 44:35, HHS sophomore Erin King dished to Griffin, who tapped in a shot just inside the near post, 1-0.
Ten minutes passed before sophomore midfielder Ava Phillip threaded a pass to Bricyn Wiley, who crushed a shot into the back of nets, 2-0.
At 71:00, Phillip fed a streaking Gianna Huber for her team’s third goal, 3-0.
The assists were Phillip’s fourth and fifth of the season.
After connecting for her county-leading 18th goal of the season to ice the match, Huber was all smiles.
On the difference between the first meeting, “As a team we worked much harder and we played together,” identified the 17-year-old Huber. “Tonight was a result of good team work. This was a huge win.”
Flaherty’s latest shutout might be her most coveted.
“This was huge,” shared Flaherty, 18. “Because we showed we can come back. In the first game, they (WWHS) scored four goals within five minutes.”
On the keys for the Leopards, “The drive was there,” stressed Flaherty. “and we communicated well.”
Griffin, who did not start, tallied her third goal of the season after Bailey Burdin felt ill and was taken out of the starting lineup.
“The key for us was playing as a unit,” expressed the 17-year-old Griffin. “The difference was the intensity and being first to the ball.”
On the matches’ significance, “As a senior, this is my last go round. I have to definitely thank our keeper (Flaherty) for having such a good game.“
Fierro admitted afterward that – due to the holidays – his team did not hold one practice together until heading to HHS and it showed.
“We were sluggish and slow to the ball,” pointed out the fifth-year WWHS mentor. “We were not prepared to play.
“…Hernando played with intensity and with a sense of purpose. I’ll have to look at the film, but can’t play at this slower pace. Playing slow is not our M.O.”
With the stunning upset, Hernando improved to 6-5 over Weeki Wachee over the last five seasons under Shrader.
“As I reflect, it was a big win because it was a district game. Secondly, because we played so poorly in the first half of our first match.
“… We came out with determination and high intensity. We had something to prove to ourselves,” explained Coach Shrader.
Evaluating WWHS, “Weeki Wachee is a good team, but we put together a load of desire in this match and that is hard to coach,” added Shrader. “That comes together when you have a group of ladies all playing unselfishly with the same purpose that supports each other on and off the field.”
Weeki Wachee returns to action Wednesday at the Bears’ Den against Central while Hernando plays host to New Port Richey-Gulf on Thursday.
Weeki Wachee 0
Goals – HER: Griffin, Wiley, Huber.
Assists – HER: Phillip (2), King.
Shots on goal – WW: 8. HER: 11.
Saves – WW: Henchey (5). HER: Flaherty (7).
Yellow cards – none.
Blue cards – none.
Red cards – none.
Records – Weeki Wachee (3-2-1 county, 4-3-2 3A-7, 5-3-2 overall), Hernando (4-3-0 county, 4-5-0 3A-7, 6-5-0 overall),