It’s only fitting then, that the Cleveland High School Lady Raiders soccer team will take to the pitch this season with 11 different heritages represented.
Mexican, Guatemalan, Dominican, Honduran, Argentine, Peruvian, Indian, Ecuadorian, Caucasian and African-American athletes will all unite in Raider Blue to try and make another push to the postseason.
“For us to have this kind of diversity on the team it allows our players to catch a glimpse of another person’s culture, another person’s background,” said Lady Raider head coach Andy Byrd.
“The diversity that we have will, I believe, ultimately be a big strength for us come the end of the season. If we take care of the little things, make sure that we are on the same page and we respect each other’s differences — ultimately wins take care of themselves when you build that type of culture. It’s been an experience for us this year. I’ve enjoyed watching them meld. It’s good for me, too. It makes my job a little more fun.”
So far this preseason the team has already had to come together to share some ups and downs.
Last week Cleveland traveled to scrimmage against a very well respected Bearden team. The team found great success establishing its brand of possession with quick counter strikes that allowed them to walk off the field with a 3-1 victory.
Freshman Sam DeBien scored a pair of unassisted goals for the Lady Raiders, and Hope Hoss accounted for the third goal with an assist from Lorne Conn.
“During our first scrimmage we played incredible. The girls amazed me against Bearden. We came into a situation up there that most people consider going into a lion’s den. They are a great team, but we feel strongly about playing the best to beat the best,” expressed Byrd.
Tuesday night the girls took to the home pitch at the Greater Cleveland Soccer Complex to host a scrimmage against Maryville.
Despite the team’s earlier success and execution against Bearden things went much differently during Tuesday’s match, with the team falling 1-nil to its opponent.
“A week later we ended up scrimmaging Maryville, who is a very good side. It’s probably my fault more than anyone’s, but our focus was lacking. I might have talked them down a little too much and talked us up. Last night we had a big bubble that got burst a little,” said Byrd.
Now, with less than a week left until the season opener at Riverdale the team will have to redouble its focus so it can get its season off on the right boot.
“Now, we are going to go back to square one. We’re going to start looking at refreshing in the basics so we can go play at Silverdale Tuesday evening,” Byrd said.
On Saturday the team will have one last chance to gear up against some live competition before the season starts, as the Greater Cleveland Soccer Complex opens its gates to 10 different teams that will take to the pitch between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. for a playday.
The season opener against Silverdale is slated for a 7 p.m. start Tuesday with the junior varsity scheduled to take the pitch at 5.