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Berry, Olson back on Fleming Island soccer sideline

Randy Lefko
Sports Editor

Posted 12/31/69

FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High girls soccer coaches have an affinity for the monicker of Final Four with outgoing coach Joy Rosano leaving with a couple of Final Four finishes in her short span …

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Berry, Olson back on Fleming Island soccer sideline


FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High girls soccer coaches have an affinity for the monicker of Final Four with outgoing coach Joy Rosano leaving with a couple of Final Four finishes in her short span as Fleming Island girls head coach and incoming coach Taylor Berry bringing four years of Final Four play for Fleming Island.

"We had a good run back then," said Berry, Class of 2014, "We had great players like Audrey Johnson, Abby Austin and Janiece Quick and now, 10 years later, me and my teammate Mikki Olson are returning to coach at Fleming Island."

Berry, who graduated and played soccer at Florida Gulf Coast University in south Florida, wants to bring some fun back to Fleming Island soccer.

"One thing I want to bring into the game is the love of the game," said Berry, who opened her season with a 4-3 loss to Atlantic Coast after losing a 2-0 early lead. "Winning is fun, but in high school, the fun part is the team camaraderie. You play harder if you are having fun because you are looser and love your teammates. It's pretty simple but sometimes fun gets lost in the club soccer scene."

Berry, a left-back defender while at Fleming Island and Florida Gulf Coast, will be joined by Olson, who played at the University of North Florida after her Golden Eagle days.

"We had a good run back then under coach Darryl Ivey, even played in front of goalie Katie Nimitz who went through our entire junior season, I believe, without a goal scored against her," said Berry. "We lost in penalty kicks in the state championship and that was an excruciating feeling that I don't wish on anyone."

After leaving Gulf Coast, Berry found her first coaching stint at New Smyrna Beach High School with a district title finish and region playoff in 2022 off a 12-4 season record.

"I left to get closer to family and friends and here I am," said Berry. " I hope to keep the momentum going that coach Rosano established and give the girls a fun team to play on. Our motto has been "We work hard, we go home."

From last year's region final finish for Fleming Island which included an overtime win over Ponte Vedra in the region semifinal before a 2-1 loss to Gulf Breeze in the region championship, Berry has a handful of key returners on her team with goalie Macie Opp, multi-position athlete Jenna Moreland and forward Taylor Tamares as well as Ryder Gardner, sister to scorer Gianna Gardner who left with 13 goals last year. Tamares finished with 10 scores with Gardner punching in two as a freshman. Added to the lineup is St. Johns Country Day School forward Sophia Pontieri.

For 2023, thus far, Berry has the Golden Eagles with a 1-3 season record with a lone win over rival Buchholz (8-0) with losses to Atlantic Coast (4-3), Tocoi Creek (2-1) and Bishop Kenny (2-0).

Fleming Island will travel to Bolles and Beachside this week with Ponte Vedra visiting on December 7 and a road game at Clay on December 12.

For the rest of district 3-6A, Nease and Ponte Vedra are both unbeaten; 5-0 and 4-0-1, respectively, with First Coast at 3-1. Oakleaf is 1-2-1, Fletcher at 3-4-0 and Fleming Island at 1-3-0. Nease has 21 goals on the season with Ponte Vedra and First Coast both with 20 and Fletcher at 17. Fleming Island has 12 with Oakleaf scoring just five.

In District 3-5A, Orange Park is running away with the top spot at 4-09 with 20 goals and just three scored against the Raider lineup. The Raiders have wins of 4-0 over Crescent City, 7-1 over Suwannee, 3-2 over Middleburg and 6-0 over Bishop Snyder.

In district 2-3A, Columbia and Clay sit atop the lineup unbeaten at 3-0 and 2-0 with Lincoln at 2-1. Ridgeview, Middleburg and Rickards are all at 1-2.

For Clay, with wins of 9-1 over Keystone Heights; seven goals by halftime and 3-2 over Gainesville. Sophomore Brooke Benton leads with five goals with last year's scoring leader, Kirra Dodson, following her with three goals. Dodson finished with 34 goals last year.

Ridgeview has a 4-0 win over Paxon while Middleburg beat Ridgeview in their season opener with a loss to Orange Park and Christ's Church Academy.

Keystone Heights is at 2-2-1 with top scorer Kiersten Shaw hitting six goals to lead the Indians with one against Clay.

St. Johns Country Day School is looking to get back to the W column of the state title game and start maybe another 11-season streak with coach Mike Pickett commenting that he has until January to have his Spartans ready.

St. Johns still plays one of the toughest schedules in Florida and that will toughen up the squad quickly, hopefully led by Sydney Schmidt up front with newcomer Gabby DeSuza and Roxy Matthews in goal. Though Schmidt is one of the best sets of soccer feet around, the Spartans have been 0-0 tied twice, 2-2 with unbeaten Ponte Vedra and have scored just two goals in their 1-1-3 season slate with the loss a 3-1 game to unbeaten 6A Chiles (5-0-1).

The Spartan schedule is a gauntlet for sure with 7A region semifinalist Doral Academy, 5A champion American Heritage, 7A champion Bartram Trail, South Walton, Niceville and Bishop Moore on tap in December.