This season, the South Effingham Mustangs prepare to stampede the pitch, with girls' and boys' teams boasting unique strengths and high expectations.
The girls welcome a wave of freshman students, forging a united front while integrating new talent. The boys, bolstered by a veteran core, set their sights on dominance with their deep roster.
Will the girls build a winning unit? Can the boys live up to their coach's lofty expectations? Saddle up and find out!
South Effingham: Forging Unity, Forging Wins
The South Effingham girls soccer squad sees it as a good problem to have – if it’s a problem at all.
An influx of freshmen has fortified the Mustangs’ roster, but – and there’s a but – it will take time in the process of bringing them into the team culture and playing style.
“We’re very united despite having a lot of new people coming in,” junior striker Giada Tamargo said at the inaugural Optim Orthopedics/Prep Sports Report Soccer Media Day on Saturday, Feb. 3. “I feel like we’ve been able to overcome that and just work as a team very well.”
Senior Kylee Anderson, a forward/center midfielder, noted good communication among players and said the Mustangs are an “uplifting” and “high-spirited” squad. All of that positivity can only be a benefit.
Senior Jalie Phillips, a center midfielder, likes the team morale and sees good chemistry on the field.
“We have a lot of newcomers this season, so we need to get the feel for how everybody plays,” Phillips said. “I think we have a really great group of newcomers coming in. They are new to the team, but they are very strong. We have a couple of newcomers in starting positions. It’s just very strong all around.”
There are eight freshmen on the South Effingham roster on maxpreps.com, six sophomores, eight juniors and four seniors.
“We do a lot of team bonding so we’re super connected and we try to be a really big unit every year,” junior center back Katelyn Bittle said. “As of right now, we do need to work on continuing to build this unit together as freshmen and others come in.”
Not on the squad are graduated players Anna Dorch and Taylor Richards. Dorch was an All-Region 2-6A first-team selection after recording 20 goals, while Richards had five.
Anderson is the top returning goal scorer with three in 2023, when the Mustangs went 5-9 overall, 4-8 in the region (fifth of seven teams). Two of the wins were over rival Effingham County, one on the road in a shootout, the other 4-1 in Guyton.
Kate Blaske, in her second year as head coach, said the team’s strength is the players’ selflessness.
“They will give 100 percent,” Blaske said. “They correct. They take the coaching. The leadership and the culture that they have created for this team is amazing.”
South Effingham Boys: Deep Roster Aims for Stampede
Coach DaKota Paradice isn’t going to downplay the capabilities of the South Effingham boys soccer team.
He has seen the Mustangs’ steady progress and a veteran roster returning from a 14-4-1 campaign in 2023, when they played their first home playoff game and reached the second round in GHSA 6A.
South Effingham also achieved a “big milestone” during the regular season by knocking off Glynn Academy, then ranked No. 9 in the nation, he said, 2-1 in the second overtime at home on March 28.
“So expectations are high,” Paradice said at the inaugural Optim Orthopedics/Prep Sports Report Soccer Media Day on Saturday, Feb. 3.
“I wouldn’t say this with too many teams, but I think our expectation is to win every single game. If we don’t, and we don’t do it in a dominating fashion, then we’re going to be kind of disappointed and need to work harder.”
Paradice has a record of 40-17-1 (69 percent) in his first three seasons as the head coach in Guyton. He said that the 2023 squad was about 11 strong, meaning depth was an issue.
“This year, we’ve got 11 true starters, but we’ve got three (more) that anywhere else I think would start,” Paradice said. “So we’re about 14 deep as a team. I think that’s going to be our strength. It’s not who’s the best player or who’s the go-to guy. It’s more or less, who in that game is going to be dominating.”
He counts nine of 11 starters returning, including one player who didn’t participate last season but would have started. Paradice also expects big contributions from freshman defensive midfielder Jude Rowe and sophomore Ronan Mock.
“Last year we gave him what we called the Ronan treatment, which is we put him anywhere and everywhere on the field because he’s like an Energizer Bunny and he just works his tail off,” Paradice said.
South Effingham graduated standouts such as All-Region 2-6A first-team selections Grady Smith and Logan Cribbs. But coming back is a senior-strong roster led by left wing Desmond Prince and center midfielder JP Alonso along with Edson Escobar.
“(Escobar is) in the midfield with me,” Alonso said, “or he can play striker, wing and offensive support like no other. He brings that flair to the game with game-changing results.”
Prince said both the offense and defense are strengths of the team.
“We are a really versatile team,” Prince said. “I think if we get all of our conditioning up to par, we’ll be a very great team.”
PHOTO Credit: Optim Orthopedics marketing Department
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