Unfinished business at state for Newsome, Holy Names

They have different styles in different classifications — Newsome in Class 5A and Academy of the Holy Names in Class 2A — but they also have poignant things in common.

Both remain steaming mad about losing in last year‘s respective state soccer semifinals, and …

Both are back.

Both also say they feel much more prepared for Friday‘s state semis than they did a year ago, because last year, as Newsome goalkeeper Madison Rowe said: "It was our first time playing in a game that big. We were a little more tight because it was new to us."

Holy Names coach Kareem Escayg said his 2016 state semifinal "first-timers" could totally relate: "You could see that we were nervous and tight. You could see it in the way we warmed up. You could see it in our body language."

Nonetheless, Newsome and Holy Names, despite never finding their groove, played tough before losing by a single goal: Newsome fell 1-0 to Miami Lourdes Academy, and Academy lost 2-1 to Jacksonville Bolles.

"We left disappointed because we knew we didn‘t play our best," Escayg said. "We knew that our nerves held us back."

Said Rowe: "We knew we could have played better."

That‘s why Newsome and AHN can‘t wait for this year‘s respective state semifinals, played at 7 p.m. on Friday.

Newsome (20-0-3) gets the benefit of home-field advantage against Oviedo (18-0-1), while Holy Names (18-2-2) must travel to West Palm Beach to play Oxbridge Academy (13-1-2).

And, combined with this year‘s increased confidence and experience, Newsome and AHN have plenty of perspective: They know it won‘t be easy.

Oviedo, for instance, is the defending state champion, and is ranked No. 1 overall in the state and No. 3 in the country by MaxPreps. Oxbridge is No. 15 in the state.

Newsome, meantime, is No. 5 in the state and No. 16 nationally, while Holy Names is No. 11 in the state.

"The bottom line is that we know every team at this point is very good," said Newsome coach Kelly Townsend, who in her 10th season is making her third trip to the state semifinals while still searching for that first state title. "We know what we‘re up against, we know how we need to play and we know if we play our best we can do it."

That healthy perspective comes partly from playing a tough schedule that included highly-ranked Jacksonville Bolles, Ponte Vedra, Navarre, Winter Park, AHN (which Newsome defeated 3-0) and most recently in the region final, Palm Harbor University, which fell to the Wolves 3-2 (4-2 in penalty kicks).

AHN, which also played a tough schedule, ultimately believes it comes down to the players taking care of their own business.

"We are most concerned with how we perform," Escayg said. "I can tell from practice this week that we feel prepared."

Both Academy and Newsome certainly have the talent to hang with anybody.

Academy‘s strongest asset is arguably its tenacious defense, led by Kendall Catone, Julia Petrillo, Lauren Dingle, Sophia Tremonti, Gabby Tuccio and Ellie Abdoney. Meanwhile up front, opponents must beware of Hannah Menendez (29 goals) and Claire Obeck (15 goals).

Newsome‘s talent is in every corner of the field from University of Florida commit Lauren Evans, to division talent Rowe and Jenna Oldham to prolific sophomore scorer, Sophie Shrader, who has 36 goals this season.

"Now we just have to keep playing together," Rowe said. "If we do that, we‘ll be okay."