There has been shortage of success when it comes to the soccer pitch for the Long County Blue Tide over the last few years. The boys team has made the state playoffs the last four years and won the Region 2-AA championship in 2017, while the girls have made the postseason each of the last five years.
Both teams look to continue that success into the 2019 season. The boys know they will have an uphill battle after they lost 11 seniors to graduation, all of which were key members of the team. They have five seniors this year and that group will look to make a big impact for the Tide.
“This group is a continuation of last year’s senior group,” said head coach Michael Austin. “They have not got a lot of playing time, but they should have the experience to help train up the incoming freshmen.”
Speaking of the freshmen, another addition that should be huge for the Tide this year and for years to come is the class of 2022. As eighth graders last year, they became the first team in Long County Middle School history to win a championship with an undefeated record at 11-0. While many of them will not play a big role just yet, Austin believes some will make an impact for the team immediately.
“We are very excited about this freshmen group,” said Austin. “They are still adjusting to the speed of the game at this level, but I am hoping they will get adjusted a few games into the season. We are very excited about the direction this program is headed with losing so many seniors last year and gaining a large group of young talent this year.”
The Blue Tide boys should be able to make a run out of Region 2-AAA, especially after the team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the state playoffs and were ranked as high as fourth in the state at one point in 2018. However, Austin knows them team will be in a dogfight every time they take the field.
“Our main goal is to make the playoffs and then to push as hard as we can to go far in the tournament. But first and foremost, we want to get back into the playoffs and continue to improve as the season goes on.”
Austin is also looking for the team to work together this year as he is pushing for them to be “selfless not selfish.”
“I want all my guys to be the highlight,” Austin said.
The Lady Blue Tide have been consistently one of the better teams in Region 2-AAA the last few years, but they feel like they are ready to take the next step in 2019. The last four years, the Lady Tide have finished second in the region standings -- behind St. Vincent’s in 2015 and 2016 and behind Pierce County in 2017 and 2018 -- and the team is using that as motivation for the 2019 season.
Long County looks to make an impact and youth is going to play a big part for the Lady Tide. The team only has one senior -- Genelle Brumant -- but have a bevy of juniors to pick from. That should make a big difference for the Tide as they look to make it back to the state playoffs for the sixth year in a row.
“Our morale so far is great,” said assistant coach Kristie Garcia, who has stepped into the head role while Reggie Wilkes finishes with basketball. “We have several underclassmen that have stepped into leadership roles along with Genelle. Having a young team gives us a firm foundation to having a successful program for years to come.”
The Lady Tide, like their male counterparts, don’t seem to want to highlight a set of specific players to make an impact this year. Garcia knows several of them are working towards the team’s goals and making the necessary sacrifices to achieve those goals.
“I feel like calling out specific names of players puts undue pressure on them to try and do more,” she explained. “This year we are focusing on getting stronger and finding strengths they didn’t know they had...We have several girls that you will hear their name often, for many reasons. We also have several girls who are stepping out of their comfort zones and will surprise you. Two things we keep repeating are: ‘It doesn’t get easier, we get stronger!’ and ‘Carbs are our Friend!’”
The Lady Tide have developed quite the rivalry with the Pierce County Lady Bears over the last few seasons with the Bears holding the 4-0 edge in the series. Despite the series lead, the 2018 games were two of the best on the schedule for the Tide and it seems they have the meetings on March 1 and March 19 circled on their calendars.
Both of the Long County soccer teams are excited for the 2019 season to get in full swing and after competitive scrimmages against Windsor Forest, one of the best teams in the state on both sides, last week -- the girls lost 3-1 and the boys lost 4-1 -- it seems it could be another great soccer season for the Blue Tide.
They opened the regular season against New Hampstead with the girls falling 2-0 and the boys coming back from three goals down to tie the Phoenix 3-3. The teams will next be on the road on Tuesday, Feb. 19 against Wayne County.