Summer Sonic Highlights: P.K. Yonge girls soccer

The P.K. Yonge girls soccer team celebrates following its 4-1 Class 3A quarterfinal win over visiting Episcopal School of Jacksonville on Tuesday.
The P.K. Yonge girls soccer team celebrates following its 4-1 Class 3A quarterfinal win over visiting Episcopal School of Jacksonville.
Photo by C.J. Gish

Editor’s note: This is part of a summer series revisiting the best of Mike Ridaught’s 2022-23 weekly sports interviews at locally owned Sonic Drive-In of Gainesville. Ridaught and Marty Pallman will debut the 2023-24 show on Wednesday, Aug. 23.

The P.K. Yonge girls soccer team advanced to the 3A-Region 1 Final this year, falling one game shy of the state semifinals.

The players and coach, Rebecca Schackow, joined Mainstreet Sports Director Mike Ridaught, and co-host Marty Pallman, on The Prep Zone Sports Show to discuss their season.

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Below are excerpts from the Feb. 8, 2023, interview—edited for length and clarity—of The Prep Zone’s interview. You can listen to the full conservation online by going to www.mainstreetdailynews.com/prep-zone

Photo by C.J. Gish P.K. Yonge girls soccer coach Rebecca Shackow (center in vest) led the Blue Wave to the 3A-Region 1 Final in 2023.

Q: You almost made it last year to the semifinals; how much did that fuel the fire for this year wanting to get back and have that opportunity again?

Schackow: Well, I really tried to step back and look at each group that comes in as its own unique group and see what has fueled them and is that important to the current captains to the former players that are on the team again? And does that matter to newcomers? We have a lot of newcomers this year; we have a young team. They were hungry for challenge. They were hungry for the best soccer that they could find in our area. And that’s you don’t have to look very hard to find that.

The Jacksonville and Gainesville area is filled with great soccer programs with boys and girls, so we were able to very easily drive and find the number one and the number two teams in the country as opponents and play with them and learn from them. I thought it was incredible. I love watching soccer. I loved watching another team challenge us in new ways. I loved watching the response of my players and how they weren’t fearful. They were excited to be tested.

Q: Even though you beat Keystone Heights, 6-1, it was scoreless at the half. Last night you were down 1-0 at the half. This is not a position that this team is normally accustomed to, right?

Schackow: We’re facing tougher opponents. We’re not the only program improving every year. I see all the programs in that area improving, and we are also being introduced to new opponents that we’ve never thought that we had the courage to face. So, it’s been so cool to go up against the best and then also be surprised by other people who are finding an edge and finding what they do well, and they’re bringing it to us. Sometimes it does take a little bit longer to strategize and to work out some kinks. Even to figure out how you’re going to gel with your team to outplay your opponent. There’s a winner and there’s a loser and you’re trying to score and you’re trying to have them not score, like that’s why we do this. And each team does a little differently. It’s been refreshing for me to see teams bring what they do well and execute it well. It’s been neat to go up against that and kept it very interesting and kept us on our toes and challenging us to be the best we can be every game.

Q: I think 55 minutes you went without scoring a goal. Was there ever a sense of urgency? Did you feel pressure last night knowing that if you lose, the season’s over?

Madison Buss (SR): I think there’s always urgency, but we also play with a lot of patience. We try not to force balls and force plays. I think that we’ve been very good at moving the ball around the field, making sure that we find our forwards, find our wings, as we usually play that way. We try to find the outside and then we’ll get through the middle and hopefully find our forwards, Faith and Elliot.

P.K. Yonge's Mae Dodd goes for the ball against visiting Episcopal School of Jacksonville on Tuesday.
Photo by C.J. Gish P.K. Yonge’s Mae Dodd goes for the ball against visiting Episcopal School of Jacksonville.

Q: Being down 1-0 in the second half. What did it take? What was the key to making that comeback win last night?

Chloe Westbrooks (SR): I think we’re all very confident that we were going to work our hardest no matter what. I think we knew that if we just kept going, and we just kept playing our soccer that we would be rewarded for that. So, I think it just kept confidence and encouragement from everybody.

Q: 13 wins this year and district champions. Now, you’re in the second round of the state playoffs. Your thoughts on the whole year?

Mae Dodd (SO): I think we’ve been very good as a team; being very competitive to each other and pushing each other to achieve things that maybe we didn’t think we could. We’ve been playing really tough teams this season to try and build up like our level of play and our level of speed. Because of that, we’ve been able to trust each other and just really depend on each other, which is led to us being able to go in and win games, even though we might not be winning at half.

Q: Now just to kind of draw a comparison, you know, if you’re on a baseball team and your pitcher is just kind of lights out, striking out everybody. That’s less work for the defense. Talk about your defense, because that’s less work for you. I don’t think they had a lot of shots of goals last night and I think your defense gets a lot of credit for that.

Norah Pancoast (FR): Yes, definitely I credit my defense everything. Every single thing I do is because of my defense, every save I make is because of my defense. Everything that our team does goes through our defense before it gets to me. And that’s why I’ve been able to make saves and also have less shots than most goalkeepers.

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