Weeki Wachee: Preseason’s overwhelming pick as county champions

Hernando High goalie Skylar Heywood couldn’t stop this shot by Weeki Wachee’s Reilley Bain last winter. Bain, the county’s defending Player of the Year, is expected to pace the Lady Hornets to its first-ever district championship tilt Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
Springstead High senior Erica Hiller is one of three returning All-Hernando County selections for the Lady Eagles this season. Photo by JOE DICRISTOFALO

US-19 booters returns

ten lettermen,

including eight starters



Thirty-five winters have come and gone without a single Hernando County girls soccer program reaching the state’s elite stage, the FHSAA State Final Four.

Five programs open the 2017-18 season with aspirations of becoming the county’s first.

Here’s a breakdown.

Lady Hornets: On the move?

Year 7 at Weeki Wachee High School has been highly anticipated.

Weeki Wachee Hornets

Isn’t this supposed to be the season the Lady Hornets break through with its first-ever winning campaign, finally outscores its opponents and reaches the Class 3A, District 7 final at Springstead on Friday, Jan. 26.

The US-19 booters graduated three players – all on defense – last winter. The biggest loss is the athletic Erika Herzek as goalie.

WWHS, however, retained 11 returning lettermen including: seniors Emily Thomas, Aubrey Hypes and Emma Jeffrey; juniors Jasmine Mendoza and Lauren Mullen; sophomores Zoie Herzek, Reilley Bain, Theresa Curtis, Jordan Hutchinson, Marleen Ohr and Heather Kierzek.

Seven starters are back featuring Bain, Herzek, Hypes, Mendoza, Mullen, Ohr and Thomas from last winter‘s 10-11-1 squad that tallied a school record 64 goals and yielded 66.

Newcomers include sophomore Madison Aldrich, who transferred from Central, along with sophomores Karla Gorton and Mikayla Henchley and frosh Hayley Crews and Ashley Bates.

Four of last season’s five All-Hernando County selections – all but Herzek – are back highlighted by 2016-17 Player of the Year Bain, Hypes, Mullen and Ohr.

Reilley Bain

Bain led the county in scoring with 63 points behind 24 goals and 15 assists.

Lauren Mullen

Mullen (13 goals, county-best 18 assists) and Ohr (19 goals, 6 assists) ranked fifth and sixth respectively.

Offense shouldn’t be an issue. WWHS opens retaining 97 percent of its 69 goals and 98 percent of its 48 assists from last season.

“Last year, we had a lot of 1 vs. 1,” described fourth-year WWHS mentor Danny Fierro, who begins the season 12-41-2 lifetime. “We’re going with a 3-5-2 alignment keeping Reilley and Marleen up top.

“We’re gonna be more of a pass-heavy unit. I want more people joining in on the attack. I think by getting more (scoring opportunities), the goals will come,” added Fierro.

Defensively, the Hornets permitted 3.0 goals per game and that was a huge improvement from the past.

The main questions revolve around what happens when WWHS is breaking in a new keeper (Henchley) while also breaking in new defenders in front of her.

Danny Fierro

“Defensively, so far, so good,” acknowledged Fierro, whose team bested Crystal River, 4-2, and nudged Springstead in the preseason tilts, 2-1. “Both teams scored on us before the first water. Having Zoie and Aubrey back there will help.

“… We’ve built the team strong up the middle. I think we’ve got some fast players along the sides. The girls are talking a lot more than last year,” said Fierro. “Henchey is a volleyball player, so she moves well. When she got here, she was real quiet. The rest of the team has been jelling around her. The players surrounding her will prevent mistakes.”

In forecasting the county picture, “My gut tells me that this is the year we win the county,” shared Fierro, a Springstead alumnus. “Yes, I think we can do it. The girls are bought in. Now, it comes down to execution. Our mindset is that everything revolves around 3300 Mariner Boulevard (SHS campus). Nothing would make me happier than finally getting monkey off our back and beating them.”

In 3A-7?

“Our goal is to play in the district championship on that Friday at Springstead,” Fierro said. “The biggest strength of our team is our attack and how solid we are up the middle.”

“Our greatest concern is maybe ignorance is bliss,” chimed Fierro. “No one really expected us to do anything last year. So how do we react to success? How can we differentiate our game?”

The keys to successful season, according to Fierro, revolves around besting the Lady Eagles.

“We have to beat Springstead and get that out of the way. Hopefully then we can rattle off some wins,” he said. “Ultimately, we’d like to be seeded third or higher. Everything goes through 3300 Mariner Boulevard. As long as we stay healthy, we’ve got a chance to reach our goals.”

Lady Eagles: Bounce back mode?

Springstead Eagles

The county’s most successful program, F.W. Springstead, suffered its first losing season in 14 winters last year concluding Jimmy Struble’s first year at the helm.

Though none of the five county teams posted a winning record, the Lady Eagles notched its 19th Hernando County championship behind a circuit-best 6-1-0 run.

Struble’s troops lost six players to graduation including three starters: Kimberly Gibson, Sasha Garcia and Tia Crawford from its 9-10-0 season last winter..

Gibson and Garcia were All-County picks before signing with the NAIA’s Florida College Falcons.

SHS has retained the services of 10 returning lettermen including: seniors Hannah Garcia, Taylor Hale, Erica Hiller, Ava Gomez, Rachel Lewis, Alesha Tinny and Merriel Reyes; junior Taylor Piesek and Alyson Burzumato and sophomore Hailey Hunt.

Freshman Gia Gomez rounds out the squad.

Though Reyes hasn’t played at the varsity level since her freshman year due to injuries, she’s listed as one of eight returning starters.

Erica Hiller

Due to graduation, the Eagles must make up for 55 percent (29-of-53) of its 2016-17 goals and 57 percent (25-of-44) of its assists.

Ava Gomez

SHS returns three All-County selectees in Hiller (21 goals, 9 assists), a striker, the playmaker Ava Gomez (1 goal, 12 assists) and defender Tinny.

“I like what I see,” explained the former Sarasota-Cardinal Mooney mentor Struble. “I don’t expect to be in lopsided games this year.”

On SHS’s biggest losses from a year ago, “It’s losing the combination of Kim (Gibson) and Sasha (Garcia),” responded Struble. “Rick (aka Hiller) will be a handful for opposing defenses; she’s so quick, but we need other options. I see Merriel (Reyes) filling that other striker position.”

Alesha Tinny

As far whether the Spring Hill crew can enjoy a fourth straight county crown, “I don’t know,” replied Struble “You really can’t gauge until you see what everyone has on hand. On paper, Weeki Wachee looks to be the team to beat. I think they’ll be our nemesis for the second/third seed.”

Jimmy Struble

On gauging 3A-7, “I realize it’s early, but I like our chances,” shared the veteran mentor. “We have seven seniors and the one freshman we have is quality. We’ve moved her (Gia Gomez) from outside to middle and she doesn’t get intimidated.”

For the Eagles to have a successful season, “I’d be disappointed if this group doesn’t make it to the district final,” predicted Struble. “If we keep jelling, like we did at the end of last season, who knows? We have the talent to compete.

“If our keeper (Bruzumato) plays the way she did in the district semifinal overtime loss to Wesley Chapel, we’ll be fine. She has the capability to lead us. She lacks self-confidence. She’s a third-year starter. We need Alyson and everyone else on this short roster to stay healthy.”

Sharks: Basically starting over

Nature Coast Technical Sharks

After eight seasons at the helm, NCT’s Head Coach Lisa Masserio walked away from the pitch as the winningest-ever Hernando County mentor with 102 career wins.

The Sharks, who finished 7-12-0 last winter, suffered its first losing season since 2010-11.

Masserio was replaced by World History instructor Brandon Chitwood, who moved to the area last year from DeLand.

Chitwood will hit the reset button after losing four seniors, his mentor and three other 2016-17 lettermen who did not return.

Offensively, NCT will be without No. 1-2 scorers from last year: Amanda Leyden and Jayna Tyler. Tyler was a All-County pick who landed a D-I soccer scholarship with the University of South Carolina Upstate Spartans.

With those two out of the picture the Brooksville booters must recoup 29-of-47 goals (62 percent) and 18-of-31 assists (58 percent).

It’s starting keeper, Karla Cantero, is now fulltime volleyball player under Emily Gore.

Two other expected returnees – Mackenzie Vraspir and Ellie Bennett – did not return. Vraspir enjoyed a breakout season in tennis last spring.

Kyler O’Leske
Marina Augugliaro

NCT will pin its hopes on four returning lettermen including: senior Kyler O’ Leske and juniors Marina Augugliaro, Brooke McDonald and Kristina Longo. All but McDonald are returning starters.

The other eight starters will come from 12 varsity newbies featuring: junior Aaliyah Ortiz, sophomores Mackenzie Curcio and Emily Stolz and freshmen: Talia Nowlan, MaKaylee Buratczuk, Monica Graham, Mia DeRonda, Kayla Johnston, Victoria Muzzin, Alexandra Florkowski, Kirsten Lavallee and Alexa Kraus.

Despite falling to Lecanto (5-0) and Wiregrass Ranch (4-0) in the preseason tests, Coach Chitwood believes his kiddie corps of mostly 14-15-year-old girls will be competitive.

“Going into the preseason, I thought our biggest questions would revolve around our defense, but we showed good teeth in both matches,” he said. “We’ll be utilizing a 4-3-3 with a triangle attack in the midfield.”

Expect Nowlan to replace Cantero in previously defense-first Sharks.

“We have other players who could play goalie, but they play other positions, so that allows us more versatility,” explained Chitwood.

Mia DeRonda

Offensively, look for fleet-footed DeRonda up top as one of the main scoring options.

“DeRonda is a jet,” described Chitwood. “We still have our No. 3 and No. 4 scorers from last season in Kyler (O’Leske) and Marina (Augugliaro). It’s a relatively speedy attack.”

Along the flanks, expect Lavallee and Florkowski to leave their mark.

County runs thru Weeki Wachee

Chitwood believes that county championship will run through the US-19 campus.

“You almost have to pick Weeki Wachee based on all their returning players and all the weapons they have in their attack,” he said. “Springstead has some firepower and I don’t know much about Hernando now that Frascatore graduated. We have the youngest team and I hope we’re peaking at the right time and give Weeki Wachee a go.”

District-wise, “It’s hard to gauge Wesley Chapel with a new coach in place. I’ve been getting conflicting reports on them,” commented Chitwood. “Assuming that Jordan (Kadlub) is still there (at Pasco), they’ll be the team to beat.”

For a successful season, Chitwood said, “We’d give Weeki Wachee a run for its money for the county title. We’re young, but talented.”

Lady Leopards: Replacing six seniors

Hernando Leopards

Despite tallying 50 goals, Hernando High will need to replace six seniors who graduated last summer following last season’s 6-16-1 season.

Among the veteran group were three 4-year lettermen in Kaylee Frascatore and Josie and Jesse Sims.

Frascatore, the county’s No. 2 sniper, was a three-time All-County performer.

HHS’ current 20-member roster must compensate for the loss of 43-of-50 goals (86 percent) and 15-of-30 assists (50 percent).

The Purple and Gold’s 24th team features 11 returning lettermen from 2016-17 including: seniors Willow Batista, Catherine Cornell and Lexi Stlip; juniors Rachel Becker, Jessica Flaherty, Madison Griffin, Cecelia Swain, Hannah Theodore and Talia Valdez; and sophomores Gianna Huber and Bricyn Wylie.

Rachel Becker
Gianna Huber

Though HHS lost six starters, five returned to the fold including: Becker, Batista, Huber, Theodore and Wylie.

HHS’ top five scorers are all gone, meaning its sixth-best scorers – Huber, Swain and Cornell – must pick up the slack.

Purple and Gold newcomers include: freshmen Margaret Mary Steinkamp, Ava Phillip and Erin King, sophomores Anna and Chloe Naughton and Bailey Burdin, juniors Hailie Tillery and Bri Garmas and senior Helena Moireno.

In preseason matches, the Lady Leopards bested Central, 4-2, but lost to Crystal River, 5-0.

Head Coach David Shrader’s fourth-year squad opened the regular season losing to Inverness-Citrus, 5-0, before bouncing back to trim Bushnell-South Sumter, 5-2.

In the win over the Red Raiders in Sumter County, Wylie notched a pair of goals while Huber, Phillip, and Anna Naughton each added solo goals.

Chloe Naughton was credited with one assist.

The loss of punch isn’t at the top of Shrader’s needs.

David Shrader

“The biggest loss is in leadership,” explained Shrader. “That’s a big part of any team. We lost some dominant athletes who were tremendous leaders. I’m looking for girls to step up. The girls have to have camaraderie, otherwise, we don’t have a team, but just a collection of players. The other kids will feed off the leaders.”

“Once we find the leaders, I believe the goals will come,” stressed Shrader, the State Farm Insurance agent by day. “We’ve got great potential. Right now, we’re working on finishing goals. That’ll take a little development. I was encouraged on how we finished against South Sumter. It was 1-1 at halftime.”

On who’ll pickup the scoring slack, Shrader points to Huber as the primary threat.

Last winter, Huber contributed two goals and one assist.

“She can shoot with either foot, moves well and sees the complete field,” described Shrader of Huber. “Mentally, she’s got the game. We just need to work on that first touch and continued good placement of the ball.”

At midfield, Shrader insists that the Naughton sisters, Anna and Chloe, know where the ball needs to go and both have playmaking ability.

Injuries decimated last year’s defense, that yielded a county-high 100 goals or 4.35 goals per game.

“Defensively, HHS was pretty good,” said Shrader. “But we’ve got to stay healthy. There were times when we had 7-8 starters out due to injuries and illness. Theodore is our best defender. She’s our left-center back. She’ll be playing in college, you’ll see.”

Last season, HHS rotated Becker and the athletic Skylar Heyward between the pipes. With Heyward attending Saint Leo University, Becker is expected to be the fulltime keeper. Tillery is Becker’s backup.

“Rachel is certainly our No. 1 keeper,” noted Shrader. “Her strength is her anticipation of what’s coming and how she moves the chess pieces in front of her. She does a good job of directing traffic.”

On the county scene, Shrader believes it’s Weeki Wachee’s year to be county champions.

“Danny’s done a nice job to get this far and they’re loaded,” described Shrader. “I really don’t know who is the No. 2 team.“

In 3A-7, Shrader says he’s going with the status quo.

“Wesley Chapel told me they had 18 club players last year. Pasco had 21. Historically, those two teams have been the best over the last couple of years, so I’ll stick with them.

On where Hernando fits in, “We hope we’re in the middle of the pack. We‘ve got a good group of girls. They’re overall pretty young with only four seniors. They’re smart players, but we’ll have to bring them along,” noted Shrader.

According to the HHS mentor, the Lady Leopards will be successful, “We‘ve gotta find ways to win some of those 50/50 games where the talent is even. In the matches where its 60/40, we’re gonna have to play above our heads and just play better. We’ve gotta change our expectations to come out on top,” shared Shrader.

Lady Bears: Seeking .500 finish

Central Bears

Just two years ago, Central High claimed the school’s second-ever district championship.

But after losing eight seniors, the program drifted to a 5-11-3 finish in 2016-17 and dropped its opening district quarterfinal match to Ocala-Trinity Catholic, 3-0.

This time, CHS must regroup minus four seniors plus the transfer of Madison Aldrich to Weeki Wachee and the decision of senior Grace McEnerney not to play her final year of high school ball.

There are many crevices within the program.

For instance, former head coach Amy Ellis did not return as an assistant under sixth-year mentor Ken Brening.

Perhaps the biggest personnel loss is filling the shoes of Regina Sameri, a three-time All-County defender as a center back.

But most importantly who’ll step up to compensate for the loss of 19 of last season’s 26 goals (72 percent) and 10 of 20 assists (50 percent)?

Gabby Custodio
Brooke Brening

CHS does return nine lettermen including seniors Zoey Massaro, Gabby Custodio and Aryanna Kennedy; juniors Savanna Flores and Kyra Turano; sophomores Brooke Brening, Skylar Benz, Lauren Amaral and Grace Bennett.

Six returning starters feature: Massaro at keeper, Brening at forward, Custudio at midfield, and defenders Amaral, Bennett and Benz.

Newcomers include: transfer Abby Hurst, Kayla Lepka and Ghordann Smith, juniors Marcella Azevedo, Paris Thomas, Erin Heffron and Kayla Stevens; and sophomore Carmen Chincilla.

In restructuring the attack, Coach Brening believes his daughter, Brooke, will lead at strikers while Custodio and Bennett will settle things at midfield.

Azevedo could help, but she’s a foreign exchange student from Brazil, who will return to her country after the holidays.

Defensively, Benz and Amaral are expected to hold the fort down in front of Massaro, between the pipes. Without the steady hand of Sameri, look for Thomas to help keep things in check in the back.

In the preseason, Central dropped two matches, to Hernando (4-1) and Citrus (1-0).

The Ken Austin Parkway crew opened the season with a lopsided triumph over 2A-6 cellar-dweller Dunnellon, 8-0.

As goalie Massaro was credited with the clean sheet, Azevedo buried four goals against the Tigers while Custodio added three, plus an assist.

Brooke Brening chipped in a goal and an assist while Bennett, Kennedy and Smith also contributed an assist.

Ken Brening

On the county scene, Brening admits, “Weeki Wachee is the strongest team coming back. I think they’re still chasing Pasco and Wesley Chapel for a playoff berth.”

Unlike the remaining county teams, Central competes in 2A-6.

“I see The Villages and Mount Dora as the two top teams,” noted Brening. “I do like our district.”

On Central’s goals, “We didn’t get one freshman player, which is odd,” summed up Brening. “I just want to get through the season and keep the games under control and keep our core players for the future.

“I think we could go 8-8 or 9-8 with this group. My biggest concern? Its that we have a lot of new players,” indicated Coach Brening.

By the Numbers: Central Bears

Graduation losses: 4

Returning Lettermen: 9

Returning Starters: 6

Seniors: 6

By the Numbers: Hernando Leopards

Graduation losses: 6

Returning Lettermen: 11

Returning Starters: 5

Seniors: 4

By the Numbers: NCT Sharks

Graduation losses: 4

Returning Lettermen: 4

Returning Starters: 3

Seniors: 1

By the Numbers: Springstead Eagles

Graduation losses: 6

Returning Lettermen: 10

Returning Starters: 8

Seniors: 7

By the Numbers: Weeki Wachee Hornets

Graduation losses: 3

Returning Lettermen: 10

Returning Starters: 8

Seniors: 3



– Compiled by TONY CASTRO


Reilley Bain















Bain, Reilley







Frascatore, Kaylee







Gibson, Kimberly







Hiller, Erica







Mullen, Lauren







Ohr, Marleen







Leyden, Amanda







Tyler, Jayna







Augugliaro, Marina







Garcia, Sasha






* Denotes county leader

2017 HernandoSport.com

All-County Girls Soccer Team









Kaylee Frascatore **




Erica Hiller ***




Kimberly Gibson ***




Marleen Ohr




Jayna Tyler ***




Gabrielle Custodio **




Ava Gomez **




Sasha Garcia **




Lauren Mullen




Aubrey Hypes




Rogina Sameri ****




Alesha Tinny ***




Erika Herzek




Player of the Year – Reilley Bain (Weeki Wachee)

Coach of the Year – Danny Fierro (Weeki Wachee)

**** Denotes four-time selection.

*** Denotes three-time selection.

** Denotes two-time selection.



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