It had been a while since the Booker High girls soccer team was able to win one.
It was Dec. 12, 2017, to be exact. A 2-1 over Southeast High. That means the team had played 37 games without a victory — until now.
The Tornadoes' winless streak was put to rest Dec. 5. Led by a strong game from freshman goaltender Laila Ward (15 saves), Booker defeated Sarasota Christian 2-0, exorcising a three-year-old demon. Sophomore Kayla Corea and junior Jazmene Perez supplied the goals.
"It was a bit surreal," Coach Jammie Jordan said. "I'm mostly proud that the young ladies played hard. That we scored our goals in the second half shows we can endure, we have better conditioning."
The turnaround began four months ago, when the school hired Jordan to coach the program. Jordan was an assistant coach on last year's squad. He saw first-hand the problems that plagued the program, starting with commitment. Booker would have between 12 and 14 players available for any given game, he said.
This year, with a roster of 17, Jordan expects his players to care. At practice on Dec. 8, Jordan talked to his team about the importance of being at practice on time. It shows dedication, and the more time the team has to practice, the better they'll get.
Jordan said six players on his team have zero previous soccer experience, including Ward, the star of Booker's tide-turning win. Jordan said he saw Ward walking through the school cafeteria a few times and thought she had the wingspan to make a good goaltender. He asked her to try out for the team. She did. Though Ward is still learning the position, Jordan said, her potential is high.
"I was focused on my education, that's my big thing," Ward said. "I have played volleyball before and did two seasons of cross country, but that's as far as my athletic history goes.
"I was afraid of the ball (at first). If one of those shots hits your face, it's going to hurt. But I started researching the fundamentals of soccer and different techniques. I read some things online and watched some videos, and that helped. It took until after the first game to start feeling comfortable."
Ward said she was aware of the program's losing streak, but because she was not part of the last few seasons, the win didn't resonate in the same way it did for the team's veteran players — such as Perez, who joined the program halfway through last season when Booker needed extra players just to field a full team. Perez had played soccer as a child, but never competitively; She was on the school's volleyball team. She decided to stick with soccer, though, even after the team kept losing. Perez said Jordan's influence has helped stabilize things. More routines, more knowledge of what they're supposed to be doing, more give-a-darn at practice and in games.
"Seeing those goals go in [against Sarasota Christian], it was like everything we were doing in practice was actually making a difference," Perez said. "Everyone was like, 'We can actually do this!' We started pushing more and more."
Jordan emphasized that the team's work is far from done. One win is not satisfactory. But it's a start, and the program had to start somewhere.
As for his players, well, they're getting something out of soccer beyond winning, too.
"I'm surprised at how much fun this is," Ward said. "The thrill of being a goalie, being out here on the field. You get adrenaline from it. I like it."
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.