Since forming in 2005, the West Pasco's U-18/19 soccer team - the Hudson Youth Soccer Lady Cobras - has already accumulated some impressive awards. In 2006, the team won the Region's Cup and made the President's Cup Final Four. Earlier this month, the team qualified for the final four in the State Cup and will compete for the state championship this weekend in Fort Myers.
Even more impressive is that only one player on the team is 18 or older. The players attend either Hudson, Springstead or River Ridge high schools.
"Even though they're playing over their age, they're not intimidated by older girls. The athleticism and unselfishness of our players allow them to compete and often defeat college-age players," said head coach Chris Swezey.
The team finished the regular season with an 8-2 record. Postseason matches included victories over the No. 3-ranked team in the state and an all-star team comprised of players from Florida and Georgia.
"A measure of a team's success is how well they play together. Many coaches select players based solely on individual talent. While talent is important, I look for players who care more about team goals and who know their role on the team. As a result, we don't have the divisiveness or the cliques that other club teams or all-star teams have," Swezey said.
One of the team leaders is Melissa Wysong, a senior midfielder from Hudson High. Selected first-team all-state by the Florida Athletic Coaches Association and a member of the West Florida all-star team, Wysong will attend Webber International University in Lake Wales on a scholarship.
"I try to lead by example with hard work during games and practices," Wysong said. "During timeouts, I keep everyone loose with a contagious laugh and by reminding the younger players to have fun."
"Melissa controls the ball well and has a unique ability to get open either to feed the ball to the forwards or put the ball on goal," Swezey said.
Another leader is Lindsay Zullo, a junior forward who attends Hudson High. The team's leading scorer, she was a first-team member of the Tribune All-Pasco County soccer team. A candidate for the Olympic Development Team, she was ranked among the top scorers in the state by MaxPreps.
"I work really hard to stay in shape by weightlifting and running five miles a day. I'm a competitive person; I hate to lose," Zullo said.
"Her desire to succeed, regardless of the competition, rubs off on the other players," Swezey said.
The team-first attitude is evident with the other players as well. Katie Assaf, a junior forward at Hudson, said, "I love the intensity of this team. We do everything as one. It's more important to play well as a team than to accumulate individual statistics."
Jessica Imbimbo, a sophomore at Hudson, plays defense for the team.
"Being a younger player has helped me develop and become more aggressive and confident during a game. It has also helped me mature as a person. My teammates are excellent players and role models," she said.
The youngest member of the team is Ashleigh Trapuzzano, 14, a freshman at Hudson High.
"Competing against 18- and 19-year-olds is a challenge. I wanted to step up to a higher level of competition to improve my game. The intensity level of this team is much higher than anything I'm used to," Trapuzzano said.
Although the current season is winding down, Swezey and his squad have little time to sit back and relax. Tryouts for next season are June 9-10 at 6 p.m. at Veterans Park, with the season starting up in August. For information, contact Chris Swezey at (727) 919-0172 or at www.hudson-