Arnold girls soccer ready for district duels

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A recurring theme for teams in all sports has been the closeness inspired by the effects of Hurricane Michael.

Bay County teams lost games, equipment, in some cases, players. Other players who remained on teams lost their homes.

Although Arnold's campus is west of the worst of the storm's wrath, this is the case for them as well.

The Marlins girls soccer team spent a significant chunk of time practicing on the road at the start of the year. Three players and their families were displaced. They stuck together though, and the dedication may pay off this week.

The 3A District 2 tournament gets underway Tuesday, with Arnold taking on Wakulla in the 4:30 semifinal and Mosley battling host Bay in the second semifinal on Chapman Field at Tommy Oliver Stadium.

This team is as close as ever, freshmen and seniors, just one win away from a ninth straight trip to the district final and regional tournament.

"You can always look to seniors because of age and experience as role models, but sometimes we learn our best things from our freshmen or from our sophomores and our juniors," senior goalkeeper Daniela Oestreich said. "We all grow and we build off of each other. We only have six [seniors], but with six or eight or the majority of the team being seniors, either way we grow and we benefit off what we can provide for each other."

"They really brought us in," freshman Lexy Griffin added. "All the kids were really nice to us and I think that's part of the reason we've had so much success this year is everybody has just been helping each other in so many different ways."

Of course, much of that has to do with the circumstances faced off the field.

"It has really proven to us How bad we want things," Oestreich said. "Soccer can seem like such a small thing compared to so many other things that are going on, but the fact that we're all willing to still come out here and do everything and be here for each other, that's what makes this sport. It's what makes it really worth doing."

Arnold brings a 9-6-2 record into the tournament. Although the record isn't pristine, the players are confident in what they've learned and how they've progressed.

"We've developed every single day just with practicing, even outside this is a team coming together," Trinity Chester said. "We do little team bonding things and we've all become closer, like a family and a team. There's some people that started off...you wouldn't imagine them being where they are now and they're just doing awesome."