Hailey Beach, as a freshman, helped the Seabreeze girls soccer team win a district title, with three shutouts in three games.
BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER
Hailey Beach didn’t expect to be playing varsity soccer as a freshman. And she didn’t expect to be the Seabreeze Sandcrabs’ starting goalie, either.
But that’s the way it worked out when the team’s starting goalie suffered a concussion early in the season.
Beach and the Sandcrabs now find themselves with a district championship, and a game Wednesday, against St. Cloud in the first round of the regional playoffs.
In the three games in the district tournament, Beach earned three shutouts, including a 1-0 win on the road at Winter Springs Jan. 18, for the district title, where she stopped all eight shots fired her way.
While head coach Frank O’Donnell said Beach has been a big boost for his team, when he turned the net over to her early in the season, there were some concerns, as there are with any position change.
“I think what helped her a lot is that the defense in front of her played very well,” he said. “And I think that gave her confidence. Her defense plays at a very high level.”
That defense, Beach said, allowed her to ease, somewhat, into the starting role. And over the course of the season, she has adjusted to varsity-level players and shots.
“The girls are a lot more skillful,” she said. “I’ve had to learn how to get faster and how to read the ball more. ... It’s been tough, but I have my coach helping me.”
They’ve been doing a lot of shooting drills, and the drills are one of two major areas O’Donnell sees as evidence of Beach’s development. The other area is her confidence.
O’Donnell said team captain Colby Clymer is usually the most vocal player, calling out assignments and opponents. But in the district title game, Beach’s improved confidence added something new, and welcome, to her game.
“For a freshman goaltender, she had a quiet demeanor (this season),” he said. “In this last game (at Winter Springs), I could hear Hailey, distinctly, start to yell and be very assertive.”
It may have taken Beach a while to get comfortable enough to take a leadership role, but, after all, she is a freshman playing on a team with four seniors and eight juniors. She’s one of only two freshman on the squad.
“I just had to step up really quick and be comfortable,” she said, adding that the upperclassmen helped her find that comfort level.
“I had to just accept that I had to be that person for them and help them through this.”
The Sandcrabs played their way to the Elite Eight a season ago, before losing to George Jenkins. If the Sandcrabs are fortunate enough face them again, they’ll need Beach to be on top of her game.
“I really feel comfortable,” she said. “I’m glad I’ve gotten to do this. I think it’s a really good step up for me, and I’m really happy. It’s different. And it’s a good different.”