Girls soccer team off to best start in years

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/OHS Lady Brahmans
Members of the Okeechobee High School girls varsity soccer team pose following their 8-0 win over Westwood on Dec. 16.

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee High School Lady Brahman varsity soccer team has capitalized on a dominating win streak during the month of December and jumped out to a 7-2-1 record halfway through their season.

They currently hold the No. 2 seed in their district behind Suncoast.

Head coach Eric Swant credits the defensive play for being the game-changer for the Lady Brahmans this year. Swant said assistant coach Bernardo Cornejo has been a key part of helping Okeechobee play a more aggressive defense.

Cornejo also serves as head coach of the junior varsity team and recently founded Chobee Football Club, a girls soccer travel team in Okeechobee that concluded its inaugural season earlier this year.

“I noticed nobody was doing off-season soccer for the girls in Okeechobee,” said Cornejo in the midst of Chobee F.C.’s season. “So that’s one of the reasons Chobee F.C. got started. My goal was to make sure these girls stay in touch with soccer. I want them to feel like they can beat anybody.”

One of the competitive edges that high school teams on the coast have over the soccer teams here in Okeechobee is that their players often play year-round in travel leagues, meaning they have much more time to develop their skills and adapt to the game. With the Lady Brahmans now off to a fast start, it appears the early returns on the investment Cornejo made into Chobee F.C. are already paying off.

Although a strong defense is crucial for any team hoping to make a playoff run, you still need to be able to reliably put points on the board. And the Lady Brahman offense has been able to rise to the occasion again and again this year.

Okeechobee had one their best offensive performances against Westwood on Dec. 16, before the Christmas break.

The Lady Brahmans won that game 8-0, with seven different players scoring a goal during the match.

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
Okeechobee High School sophomore Isabella Saucedo maneuvers around a defender.

Isabella Saucedo led the team with two goals, while Noelia Ruiz-Hernandez, Jacqueline Jaimes, Drina Aguilar, Kaitlyn Guerrero, Chelsea Burgos and Callista Martinez each scored one goal against Westwood.

Guerrero also led the team in assists in that game with two. Earlier in the season Kaitlyn won Big Lake Athlete of the Week honors for scoring three points in the second half against Sebring on Nov. 19. The Lady Brahmans would go on to win that game 6-4.

Coming up next, the Lady Brahmans will host one of the tougher opponents of the season when LaBelle makes the trip up to Okeechobee.

LaBelle has fought their way into an 8-2 record this year. The only common opponent the two teams have faced thus far is Sebring, which LaBelle fell to by a score of 2-1.

Following the LaBelle game, the Lady Brahmans will be tested with to back-to-back road games, starting with a rematch against Sebring and a visit to longtime rival Jensen Beach.

Okeechobee and LaBelle will face off at 7 p.m. on Jan. 6 at OHS.

Richard Marion is a staff writer and photographer at Lake Okeechobee News and can be reached at rmarion@newszap.com.

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