Last Wednesday, Challenger K-8 music and chorus teacher Richard Gomez took over the Lady Eagles, guiding them in Friday’s critical 4-3 victory over Class 3A, District 7 rival Fivay.
“We’ve had to rely on the leadership of our captains to keep the team together and keep spirits high,” Gomez said. “It’s hard to lose a coach but it’s all about the team. We have to stick together and fight our way through.”
Gomez, 40, isn’t a stranger to Hernando County athletics. He was golf coach at Challenger from its inception in 2005 through the 2013 season, leading the Navigators to six county championships.
Meanwhile, he coached JV girls soccer at Springstead in 2007-08, as well as eight years with First Hernando Youth Soccer Club until this year, when he shifted to the West Florida Flames out of Pinellas County.
That was a bit of a homecoming for Gomez, who grew up in Palm Harbor and attended Tarpon Springs High, playing soccer throughout his youth.
Wern stepped down on Nov. 4, citing difficulties dealing with team parents, less than two weeks into his fourth season at the helm.
Upon seeing the vacancy posted, Gomez said he immediately contacted Springstead athletic director Bob Levija.
He is coach on both the varsity and junior varsity levels, with Rashawn Lamar as the only assistant coach remaining.
“I’ve got to give credit to Scott Wern, he brought quality trainers in here,” said Gomez, referring to Lamar and former assistant David Hayes, who Gomez worked with at First Hernando.
“Most definitely the expectation is to win, but the process is what’s important. Practice and training is everything. How we practice and train is how we’ll execute in games. That’s why it was so important to keep Rashawn Lamar on.”
The Lady Eagles are far from a downtrodden program. With Tuesday’s 4-2 win at Crystal River, they improved to 6-0-1.
Gomez wants to help them fulfill their promise this season and continue with them going forward.
“I think we can accomplish anything as long as we work hard and practice hard,” Gomez said. “If they’ll have me, I’d love to do it (long-term). It’s an honor to coach high school soccer, varsity or JV.
“As a soccer player, I know how important it is to the girls. We’re trying to prepare these girls to play college soccer. It’s my responsibility to make sure they have the best opportunity to play college soccer.”