Sailors girls soccer fights through cold to prove their mettle.
Well, I suppose I did ask for it.
The recent weather, especially at night — you know, when they hold sporting events — has been freezing, almost literally. I covered the Jan. 21 Sarasota High girls soccer game against Palmetto High in a light jacket, without checking the forecast, thinking it would be enough. It was around 48 degrees. My hands were tingling after a few minutes of taking pictures. Thanks, humidity.
The Sailors players were in the same boat.
"I can't feel my … anything!" sophomore defender Janel Mitchell said at the midway point of the second half, embracing her teammates for warmth. Sarasota's bench players huddled under a fortress of blankets. Other players did extra stretching during the game to keep warm, or at least try.
"This is by far the coldest game of the season," Sarasota coach Cole Richardson said. "It's Florida. We never expect it to get like this. Our girls showed up without any warm-up clothes, without Under Armour or anything. It's difficult to play when your mind is telling you one thing and your muscles are refusing to cooperate."
The Sailors won 5-0, an impressive offensive showing considering the circumstances. Junior midfielder Annette Zamsky netted one of those goals. Zamsky said she actually prefers playing in colder weather — though maybe not this cold — as it helps her avoid overheating and dehydration.
Prepared or not, the Sailors continued their season of success. Zamsky said this year's squad (8-7-1) is the most confident bunch she has played with as a Sailor. Sarasota has one regular season game to go, against Manatee High on Jan. 23, before heading into districts. Win or lose, the 2019 season has been an improvement on last year's 4-11 campaign.
"Coach Cole (Richardson) has brought us together," Zamsky said. "She has tried girls in different positions and taught us to work together, to work as a team out there. This season has helped keep our confidence up without it going to our heads. We don't ever think, 'Oh, we have got this one, we are the best.' But we have learned we can do this."
The Sailors are led in scoring by sophomore forward Madelyn Cohen, who has 14 goals. She had one against Palmetto, and almost had a second on an unbelievable effort, taking a ball up the left side and into the box, keeping it in bounds while fighting off a defender near the goal line, then blowing between two other defenders and leveling a shot at the net — only for it to hit the crossbar.
Goal or not, it was an impressive display, one made even more so by the frigid temperatures. If the Sailors have people talented enough to do that while trying not to think about the needles in their feet, and they have the defense and goalkeeping to shut things down, think about what they can do in regular weather. Sarasota has been up and down, but their ups are way up there, and they could cause problems for opponents in the postseason if they bring their best effort.
Or if it's somehow in the 40s again. The Sailors are pros at that now.