Redhawks Stand Strong

#1 – Stephanie Amador-Mendoza, #2 – Areyanna Blackett-Medina, #3 – Taleah Hayes, #5 – Haven Frazier, #6 – Kennedy Washington, #7 – Roxanna Angeles, #8 – Annalisa Athanas, #9 – Essany Bailiff, #10 – Jasmine McConnell, #11- Katelyn Williams, #12 – Nevaeh Villanueva, #13 – Ashleigh Nemeth, #14 – KenNedi Goodson, #16 – Hannah Faure, #17 – Kelsi Sharpe, #23 – Tanisha Skinner, #24 – Kelin Rodriguez, Head Coach: Chelsea Pedersen | Photos: Leroy Howard

When Chelsea Pedersen took over the head girls soccer position at Westwood High School, she built the team from the ground up. Of the eleven freshmen who were on that 2017 roster, five would have celebrated their final home game as Redhawks just last week. Instead, an order closing schools on March 14 ended the squad’s season in its infancy.

“This season came to a close before it ever had a chance to get started,” Pedersen said. “I was excited to see what this season was going to bring because we had seven seniors and six juniors and returned all but one of the starters from last season.”

With experience under their belts and extra work put in during the off season, Pedersen said she looked to make a playoff run.

“We built a strong core of players last season, and I am confident we would have finished top of the region.”

A preseason of rainy weather kept the team from preparing as they would have liked.

“The fields were flooded more often than they weren’t, which made it difficult for the players to get used to using the space they would have on a full field.”

Pedersen was confident that the team would have adjusted quickly once the season entered full swing. But full swing never happened as the March closure order was extended through April and ultimately for the remainder of the school year.

“For many of my players, this is something they look forward to all year, and they just had the season ripped out from under them. My seniors are the ones who are struggling the most because many of them will not have the opportunity to take the field as a part of a team again. Each of them brought something special to the team, and they will be very difficult to replace next year.”

Skinner, a captain this season, brought more than just speed to the program. She was a leader.

“We could always count on her to tell everyone what was on her mind. Her tact in delivering her thoughts quickly became that of a leader this season.”

Ashleigh Nemeth and Haven Frazier would have capped their fourth season this year.

While Frazier was consistent contributor on defense in her four-year tenure, Nemeth had progressed into a starting position.

“I was looking forward to seeing Ashleigh on the field as she had earned her position as a starter in the midfield. The timid freshman had become someone who took charge on the field,” Pedersen said.

Seniors Essany Bailiff and KenNedi Goodson were two of the team’s most used utility players.

“Essany began as a defender and had proven herself as a midfielder last year.  Unfortunately she began her senior year with an injury and was not able to step on the field. I am confident she would have been a force to be reckoned with once she was released.”

Goodson, a captain for two of her four years, was another player Pedersen could utilize without hesitation.

“She would excel no matter where she was on the field. KenNedi was a quiet leader, but always someone her teammates could lean on.”

Goodson and teammate Taleah Hayes have committed to play soccer at Brevard College,

Hayes, who transferred in as a junior, was an impact player from the start.

“She was last year’s leading scorer, and I anticipate that she would have done the same this year had she been given the opportunity.”

Areyanna Blackett-Medina joined the team as a senior, but Pedersen says she made her presence known from day one.

“She is the type of player who apologizes when she is sick because she knows how much it means to the team for her to be out at practice.”

Pedersen is reflective of her time with the seniors.

“I can’t thank this group enough for their leadership and their flexibility. While it is my goal to have a positive impact on them, it inevitably happens that they have an impact on me.”

She says that while the seniors will be hard to replace, she looks forward to next season with 10 returners.

“I have no doubt that the returners and incoming freshmen will work just as hard to prove themselves next season.  We will have a lot of work ahead of us as we will face a new region that includes several new opponents and several teams we have seen in competition before.”

Pederson is proud of the way the underclassmen have stepped in to support the seniors as they struggle with the loss of the season.

“Times may be tough right now, but the Redhawk Family is tougher, and we will get through this and come out stronger than before.”