With the physical demands on players in Conference USA increasing each season, women’s soccer coach Logan Fleck is aware the players he recruits need more than good technique. They also need to be seasoned athletes.
Correspondingly, Fleck has brought in three local high school standouts, two of whom are multi-sport athletes, and grabbed another player from the USF track and field team, hoping to improve on an 8-8-2 record last year.
Erin Dafeldecker and Ashley Quaid, both from Tampa, Jessica Zabel of Lake Mary and USF senior Tabitha Butler, all excelled in two or more sports during high school, something Fleck feels is a necessary trait to compete in a national conference.
“It speaks directly to the athletic ability that’s needed to compete in Conference USA,” Fleck said. “In our conference, if you don’t possess speed, strength and power, you’re going to suffer.”
Fleck turned 180 degrees away from the recruitment style of USF men’s soccer coach George Kiefer, who recruited a multitude of foreign and out-of-state players. Although Fleck stayed within Florida this season, and even closer to USF’s campus by grabbing players from the Bay area, he doesn’t denigrate national recruitment.
“Take a look at FSU and UF. They have a good deal of out-of-state (players), and ours is pretty low,” Fleck said. “We’d like to be able to regionally recruit, but we look at Florida first. Sometimes you can overlook kids that are in your own back yard and overestimate kids that are further away.”
Quaid, who was Hillsborough County’s Player of the Year last season, led Bloomingdale High School to the Class 5A state title in her sophomore season. The midfielder was also a Wendy’s High School All-American last season and tallied 68 goals and 78 assists in her four-year high school career.
Dafeldecker, a forward out of Tampa Bay Tech, led her team in scoring all four seasons, amassing 78 goals and 38 assists in her career. She was a three-time All Western Conference First Team selection, as well as making both the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times All-County teams.
Dafeldecker also earned high-school sports letters in golf, track and field and cross- country.
Zabel, a two-time first-team All-State selection as a midfielder/forward, led Lake Mary High School to the Class 4A state title in her junior season and back to Final Four this year. She is also a four-time All-State cross-country runner, with an individual title in 2000, as well as a three-time All-State track and field athlete.
Butler returns to the pitch after a three-year hiatus during which she was a member of the USF track and field team. She was a goalkeeper for two seasons at Gainesville P.K. Yonge High School, where she was voted as Defensive Player of the Year and Female Athlete of the Year in 1999.
The athletic ability of the incoming players may help a team that lost its most experienced player, first-team All-Conference midfielder Tia Opliger, last year and has two players suffering from torn anterior cruciate ligaments. Fleck isn’t expecting the new players to step in and make a huge impact, but he is expecting them to press the returning players by adapting quickly to collegiate soccer.
“We’re a very young team to begin with, and we don’t have a lot of experienced players,” Fleck said. “Everyone thinks we’re in a reloading year after losing some experience, but these young ones are going to be useful, and it’s the job of the coaching staff to get them ready.”