Young Tigers adapting to new coach, new style of play


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The Holy Trinity girls soccer team has plenty of good, young players on this year's team. That should serve the Tigers well as they adjust to a different style of play under new coach Joey Messina.

photo by Carl Kotala

The Holy Trinity girls soccer team will be a bit of a work in progress this season as the Tigers implement a new system under new coach Joey Messina while also relying on a strong group of younger players to continue to improve.

“I’m trying to do something new here, take our system of play to the next level,” said Messina, who is implementing the diamond formation this season.

While there may be some lumps to be taken early in the season as the Tigers work on implementing their new game plan one piece at a time, the hope is that they will continue to see progress as they take what they’re learning in training onto the pitch.

“I really want to teach these girls to play possessive soccer, how to press and win the ball,” Messina said. “I have a lot of young kids. In the long run, it will pay off. I really believe in possessive soccer. That’s a huge part of my soccer philosophy.”

Senior Sarah Braddock, now in her fifth year on varsity, has noticed a definite difference since Messina took over.

“Our practices are a little more structured because we have less girls that play club soccer, so we’re focusing more on technical skills and just the breakdown of plays,” Braddock said.

The Tigers may be young, but there are still plenty of solid, talented players that should keep them strong for years to come.

That list includes eighth-grader Piper McHenry and freshmen Lauryn Gayles and Kailey Dunne.

McHenry, who is a rising star striker for the Space Coast United Soccer Club where Messina also coaches, is expected to help make up for the graduation of prolific goal scorer Emily Morgan.

“Piper is definitely a big threat,” Messina said. “She’s very good on the ball. Technically, she’s really sound, has good pace. I’d expect a lot of goals to come from her in the future.”

Holy Trinity has won four consecutive district championships, including last season when a young Tigers team advanced to the semifinals of the Class 1A regional playoffs.

Braddock, who has been a part of all four championship teams, is hoping to close out her high school career with another title.

“I think we have a good chance of winning districts again,” she said. “We have a lot of girls coming back from last year with experience. That’s going to help a lot. So hopefully, we can make it further than last year.”

How far the Tigers will go will depend on how quickly the players can adjust to the new system. But as Messina said, it should all pay off in the long run.

“I don’t expect it to happen overnight,” he said of the change. “It’s a really complicated and long process to learn how to play the diamond. But I think we’ll adapt eventually. We have an intelligent, committed group of girls.”