The 2018-19 Wharton Wildcats girls soccer team is facing some new challenges — long-time coach Dennis Vukorep, who won more than 100 games coaching the Wildcats, took a job with county powerhouse Newsome, while all-county keeper Caroline DeLisle, who set school records with 538 career saves and was 44-17 with 28 shutouts in her prep career, is now playing for the University of Central Florida in Orlando. The Wildcats’ top goal scorer from a year ago, Alisha Deschenes, also has graduated.

First-year head coach Jason Rohr takes over, and has some rebuilding to do. But, he also has some talent to work with.

Replacing DeLisle, who started 76 games the last four years, is a big hole that will be filled by Callisha Wrensford, a junior, and sophomore Paityn Arroyo, who played in five games last year, including a 4-2 win over King. Rohr is hoping what he calls “one of the best back lines in the region” will build a proverbial, and protective, wall around the new starting netminders.

Wharton’s last line of defense consists of sophomore Brooke Dekle on the left side, senior captain Callista Ferrin, who plays alongside senior Sierra Rohr at center back, and freshman Brooke Rohr splits time with newcomer Maude Castonguay on the right side.

“The center backs are the centerpieces of that back line,” Coach Rohr says.

Ferrin is 6-foot-1 and can venture into the offensive side to help on set pieces; she was first-team All-Western Conference last year. Sierra Rohr, a ball-hawking center back who’s not afraid to throw her body around, was a United Soccer Coaches High School All-American selection for Florida and second-team all-conference. What better way to protect your new keeper than to place two of your best players in front of her?

Brooke Rohr, Dekle and Castonguay have no problem covering both ends of the field and should coalesce as the season progresses. In a tough district with high-scoring teams, the Wharton defense is likely to face a tough test every night. How the D handles those tests could determine the fate of the Wildcats.

Wharton Girls
Head Coach: Jason Rohr
Last season: 15-4-1
Key Returners: Sierra Rohr (Sr., D), Ferrin (Sr., D), Sydney Hubbard (Sr., MF), Payton Jones (Jr., MF) and Vanessa Lopez (Jr., F).
Who’s New?: Maude Castonguay (Jr.), Haley Chambers (So., D), Brooke Dekle (So., D), Melanie Copeland (So., F), Izabella Avila (So., D).
Outlook: Hubbard is coming off of an all-conference season in which she scored 15 goals and had 15 assists, and is the Wildcats’ leader on offense. Jones and Lopez both had three goals in 2017-18, but should improve on those numbers. Avila, who had four goals and three assists as a freshman, already has two this season, as does Copeland. The Wildcats are 1-2, beating Berkeley Prep and losing to Newsome and Largo, though Newsome and Largo are a combined 10-1. The Wildcats will have to navigate a tough Class 5A, District 7 schedule, where favorite Palm Harbor University High made it to the State Class 5A final four and the six teams in the district were a combined 57-12-4 outside of 5A-7.

Freedom Girls
Head coach: Jennifer DeMik
Last season: 6-9
Key Returners: Grace Alexandro (Jr., GK),  Kelsey Skendziel (Sr., D), Bethany Green (Sr., D).
Who’s New?: A strong freshman class has landed at Freedom this season. There are nine freshmen on the team, and five of them start, including center-midfielder Camryn Bliss and striker Anna Gore.
Outlook: Alexandro makes the full-time transition to soccer this season, after splitting time between soccer and basketball in 2017-18. Skendziel and Green are the captains and anchor the back line for the Patriots. Freedom’s Class 4A, District 8 is not too deep, but getting around State runner-up Mitchell High is a tall order. With an experienced defense and some new firepower up top, it’s reasonable to think the Patriots, who beat King 4-1 and lost to Strawberry Crest 2-1 in the preseason, could sneak into the playoffs if they can overcome their 0-3 start “I was not expecting this incoming freshman class but I’m very excited about them,” Coach DeMik says. “I think this is the best team I’ve had since I’ve been here.”

Wharton Boys
Head coach: Scott Ware
Last season: 8-8-1
Key Returners: Andy Ilken (Sr., GK/F), Luke Rowe (Jr., D), Leo Silva SR., MF).
Who’s New?: After scoring only 17 goals in 17 games last season, the Wildcats are putting more emphasis on the attack this year. Newcomers Ore Deen and Roger Rodriguez add some much-needed speed on the outside.
Outlook: Ilken, Rowe and Silva are the team captains. Ilken, who also is the punter for the Wharton football team, is a four-year starter. Ware will try to maximize his talents as both a keeper and as a dangerous 6-foot-3 striker. Rowe is a three-year starter lining up at outside back and Silva, who scored a goal in a 2-1 preseason win over East Bay (with junior defender Zach Godbold assisting), holds down the center-mid position. Like the girls, Class 5A, District 7 is a tough district to navigate. Perennial powerhouses Wiregrass Ranch and Palm Harbor University High have won all of the 5A-7 District titles stretching back to 2015.

Freedom Boys
Head coach: KC van der Luit
Last season: 6-10-1
Key Returners: Caden McCoy (Sr., CB), Leo Batista (Jr., MF), Sungura Sadiki (So., F).
Who’s New?: Junior Matt Moore arrives to bolster the squad, but van der Luit has high hopes for senior Andres Ojeda, a seasoned club player and scorer playing high school soccer for the first time.
Outlook: McCoy moves back from the midfield because van der Luit wanted a bigger body to stop balls. Batista is the vocal leader of the team. Sadiki, a second-year player from Tanzania, will take on a much larger role up top this season. The Patriots have been a middle-of-the-road team for the last few years, going 59-84-11 since their State runner-up season in 2008-09. But, this could be the year that they break out, with the added punch up top. The Patriots toppled Strawberry Crest 6-1 in the preseason and are 1-0-1. Mitchell, just like on the girls’ side, is the team to beat in Class 4A, District 8, but that is where van der Luit has his sights set.


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