Article and Photography By ALICE MARY HERDEN
Pasco Hernando State College (PHSC) has always had the goal to increase its athletic programs. To start the 2021 fall sports season, they are welcoming their first intercollegiate soccer program. “Dr. Bob Bade, Senior Vice President, and Chief Student Affairs & Enrollment Management Officer were looking to expand our athletic program, and women’s soccer seemed to be a great sport to start. With some outstanding women’s soccer teams in our area, we thought this would be a great addition to our college,” PHSC Athletic Director Steve Winterling said.
Even though this is an instrumental achievement for the college, it comes not without its challenges. Recruiting and scheduling their first competitive games were top on the list to overcome. “It’s always a challenge in starting a program. Recruiting student-athletes in a short period of time has been difficult, but that’s to be expected the first year. Once we start competing and the surrounding counties are more aware of our women’s program, we feel players will want to come to PHSC to continue their education and soccer career,” said Winterling.
The PHSC women’s soccer program is a member of the National Junior College Athletic Program (NJCAA) and Florida College System Activities Association (FCSAA). Winterling explained that because there are only four other NJCAA programs in the state: Polk State, Daytona State, Eastern Florida State, and ASA College, scheduling games for their first season has had its challenges. As the program was beginning to fall together, PHSC needed a coach to oversee this new sports program. A coach that could break ground, develop standards and create a vision and guideline towards the success of the program and the success of the players. The college hired former player and coach of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Stuart Campbell. “Stuart brings a wealth of soccer knowledge to our women’s program. He’s coached at all levels, and of course, his experience with the Tampa Bay Rowdies is a big plus. It will be exciting to see how he builds the women’s program, and hopefully, the growth of women’s soccer in our state will continue,” Winterling said.
Most importantly, Campbell has the passion for taking the program where it needs to be and conquering an area he has yet to put into play from his soccer profession. “I have done a lot of the things in my life soccer-related, but I have never been part of a brand new program,” said Campbell. Campbell’s professional career as a player and coach prepared him to utilize that knowledge and experience to set a platform for his team, especially in their first season. “I want to try to bring some of my professional experience and give them a taste of it,” said Campbell. “It’s going to be a challenge the first year, but we are also super excited.”
On Saturday, June 26, PHSC held their first women’s soccer tryouts, and a few ladies from Hernando County acquired a spot on the roster.
Nature Coast Tech’s Del’Nikquwa Edwards, an early graduate, has put her mark on the field, establishing 50 games played during her high school attendance. According to the stats on MaxPreps, she acquired 72 points, 27 goals, 80 shots, 18 assists, and 55 steals. “I am ready to try something different and better my skills and game,” Edwards said. “I am excited and prepared to show my skills to a different team, to get used to a different play style.”
With just 13 games played, Springstead’s Kayla Crosby hasn’t stopped pursuing her goals. “I only recently started playing in the past three years. I didn’t know I was good enough to play. The next thing you know, I got offered a scholarship to play for two years,” Crosby said. “I definitely want to try to be the best I can be as a player and as a person.
Erin King has played soccer since she was eight years old and played at Hernando High for two seasons. “I’ve played soccer my entire life and always wanted to play college soccer. It’s really cool that one day I can look back and be like I played the first year that this program was implemented,” said King.
All these women are excited and think it’s really cool to be the first ones on the roster to make their mark within the PHSC athletic program. They have a lot to look forward to and, of course, a lot of hard work in building a solid base that goes along with the diversity of talent.
“I am passionate about the technical ability of the players. I want to display and develop technically sound players. When the support (fans) come to watch (our games), I want them to be able to see that we have a clear style of play. I want them to see we have an identity,” said Campbell.
The Bobcats take on Polk State College September 1st at Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus to start their first season. The game begins at 1 pm. To view the current schedule, visit: Soccer News | Athletics (phsc.edu) – https://bobcats.phsc.edu/sports/soccer/news