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Newsome girls still haunted by playoff setbacks

JARRETT GUTHRIE Tribune correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 11:44 PM

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LITHIA -

It has started to sting a little too much, a little too often for the coach and players on Newsome's girls soccer team. At the end of the 2009-2010 season, Wolves coach Kelly Townsend said she spent two weeks watching a video over and over of Newsome's last game of the season. Leading-scorer Karina Gutsche (18 goals last season) has replayed moments of the game in her head, along with memories of the end of her freshman and sophomore campaigns.

"For the past three years for me and the team it's been the roughest end to a season every single time," Gutsche said. "The outcome has been the same every single time."

The outcome the senior is referring to is a 5A region final loss to Lakeland Jenkins, ending the Wolves' seasons since 2008.

According to Gutsche, the single idea driving the last 10 minutes of Newsome's team practice is simple - be better.

Better than the next opponent, better than every single opponent, better then Jenkins.

"When we are running as a team in those last 10 minutes we say, 'Let's push it to beat Jenkins,' " Gutsche said. "We use that idea to try to beat any opponent, in any match, in those last few moments of a game.

"To make sure at the end this year we have what it takes."

A season ago, the Wolves had a strong regular season, winning the Sarasota Holiday Tournament, which included state finalists Berkeley Prep (3A), Tampa Prep (2A) and region-semifinalist Plant (6A). Newsome defeated East Bay to capture the 5A-District 8 title before earning region wins against Ocala Forest and again against East Bay. But it all came down to allowing Jenkins two first-half goals by Theresa Butler, before playing even in the second half to fall 4-2 in the region final.

"I watched the game in that first week after we lost probably 15 to 20 times," Townsend said. "I don't know the exact number, but I kept looking at things we needed to fix."

It's strange where motivation can come from, but Townsend believes the Wolves loss last year has triggered something in her team. She said in the teams preseason workouts have seen her upperclassmen leadership taking the reigns and pushing the team harder then ever.

"The loss last season to George Jenkins has them pretty motivated," Townsend said. "I'm trying to shift that focus to the whole year."

"We have to do a lot of things before we get to that point, but this team is ready for the tough schedule it has ahead."

Newsome again isn't taking any easy roads to a potential postseason. The Wolves open the season against Steinbrenner tonight in the Lady Wildcat Invitational at Wharton. The Warriors advanced to the 4A region tournament last season and had an undefeated regular season. The tournament also includes Plant, Wharton, Hillsborough, Clearwater Central Catholic, Durant and last year's state finalist Seminole.

Newsome also renews its rivalry with neighbor Bloomingdale (Nov. 8), as well as games against Plant (Dec. 8) and district showdowns with a tough East Bay team (Dec. 6).

The Wolves return its top scorer from last season in Gutsche, a senior who scored 18 goals last season and has verbally committed to the University of Florida. Also returning is junior midfielder Caroline Evers, who was lethal and perfect last season in penalty kicks and had 13 goals. The defense will see a slight change as Townsend hopes the addition of sophomore Ashley Rivera will allow last year's second-leading scorer and defensive leader Jackie Simpson (16 goals) to move from the sweeper spot. Townsend hopes the move will allow Simpson some ability to attack on the offensive end.

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