George Jenkins Finds That Balance Makes Up for a Lost Star
Fri. February 01, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | By Polk Preps Staff
JESSIE SCARPA, with 34 goals and 15 assists, is the leading scorer on a strong George Jenkins team in its sixth trip to the state semifinals since 2005. (Photo by MICHAEL WILSON | THE LEDGER)
By ROY FUOCO
LAKELAND | It's February, girls soccer is winding down, and George Jenkins is one of the few teams in the state still standing.
Hardly. For the sixth time since 2005 when Chris Farrar led George Jenkins to its first final four, the Eagles again are playing in the FHSAA state semifinals.
Jenkins (23-3-1) plays Orange Park Fleming Island (19-2-1) in a rematch of last year's Class 4A semifinal that the Eagles won 1-0.
The two teams meet at 7 tonight at George Jenkins, the second year in a row that the state semifinals aren't being played at a neutral site.
"There's a little bit of positive and a little bit of negative (of hosting)," said Jenkins coach Marissa Kazbour, who is in her second year as head coach after replacing Joe Lenard. "You don't get to travel and see the other teams. That makes it feel like you're in the final four. It's like another home game."
The winner advances to play the Melbourne-Lakewood Ranch winner at 1:05 p.m. at Melbourne High School, which is hosting the championship games for all five classifications.
The Eagles lost seven players off last year's squad and have three new starters on defense. Fleming Island returns nine of 11 starters.
Despite the influx of new players, Kazbour isn't expressing any surprise at where her team stands.
"I give all the credit to the girls," she said. "I want to go to the championship every year, so we can't be surprised when we play well."
While a 45-goal scorer like Tori Abnathy can be hard to replace, the Eagles have remained strong on offense. Returning players Jessie Scarpa (34 goals, 15 assists), Lauren Greene (27-15) and Camille Knudstrup (20 goals) have provided Jenkins with plenty of firepower.
Kazbour said she wasn't worried about players trying to do too much to make up for the loss of 45 goals.
"Jessie and Lauren know their roles and have played well," she said.
Kazbour also said Knudstrup and Lindsey Jeffries have made an impact in the midfield.
Replacing a top goal-scorer might be the most visible need in the eyes of fans, but the bigger challenge might have been the defensive unit that was led by Kacy Scarpa, a two-time PolkPreps.com player of the year.
With Katherine Lopez the only returning defender, Abby Sizemore, Courtney McElroy and Katherine Stokes have stepped in to play strong defense along with returning senior goalkeeper Hannah Hayes and freshman keeper Haleigh Mercier.
"Our subs have played well too," Kazbour said. "You need all 20 players."