FLEMING ISLAND – One thing Fleming Island High’s latest coach, girls soccer coach Joy Rosano, is that, nice as she is otherwise, she is as competitive as the next guy when she steps on to the …
FLEMING ISLAND – One thing Fleming Island High’s latest coach, girls soccer coach Joy Rosano, is that, nice as she is otherwise, she is as competitive as the next guy when she steps on to the pitch.
Rosano’s off field persona is somewhat cordial, even giddish, but her demeanor once the whistle blows, as was evident in her come-from-behind win over Creekside, a Class 6A Final Four finisher last year and a team with a rich history of tough games with Fleming Island, was very Jon Gruden-like (Google Gruden).
“The first thing I told the team was that I am a very competitive person on the field,” said Rosano, 30, and a 2008 Fleming Island High School graduate. “I still want to have fun and want the girls to have great memories, but we are going to win. I said in day one, we will have fun, work hard and we will win because I hate losing.”
Rosano’s path back to Fleming Island came via her sister Julianna’s recreation league co-ed soccer team and some interest from former Fleming Island coach Darryl Ivey.
“I got a call out of the blue from my former coach Darryl Ivey, who had actually got me and my sister to play on a co-ed recreation league soccer team,” said Rosano, 30, and a 2008 Fleming Island High graduate. “Coach Ivey had reached out to my sister Julianna to play on the adult league. Julianna and I live together and that’s kind of how it all got started. Needless to say, the first game was a little rough.”
The duo played for while until Ivey and Director of Soccer Operations at Fleming Island High Frank Pontore, who had stepped in as girls coach for the interim, made contact with Rosano.
“I never thought the opportunity to coach at my alma mater would ever arrive, but am so honored that it did,” said Rosano. “I sat down and had the conversation and it all worked out.”
Unfortunately, for foes of Fleming Island soccer; the Bishop Kennys, the Creeksides, the Ponte Vedras and the Bolles, Rosano’s installation has reignited the Fleming Island aura of Final Four finishes as Rosano’s first four wins of 2020 have been Bishop Kenny, Creekside, Bolles and Nease wins with a dramatic tie with Ponte Vedra on December 1. Bishop Kenny is the defending Class 4A champion. Bolles is the defending Class 3A champion. Creekside was a Class 6A Final Four finisher last year. Ponte Vedra was the Class 5A runnerup last year.
“The girls on the team are all good and, unlike previous years, the club team players are now playing for the high school,” said Rosano. “I know that was frustrating for coach Pontore, but he kept the program competitive while looking for a coach.”
Against Ponte Vedra, Rosano got the tying goal late in the game on a break that did not seem like it would be successful, but proved otherwise.
“I told the girls at the half that coaches talk and the word is out about you,” said Rosano. “They sacked their midfield to try and control us. Gianna Gardner broke away with 17 minutes left in the game off a long ball to the left sideline. From my angle, it didn’t look like she would get to the ball before the goalie, but she got there and toe poked it. It was huge.”
On the slate, though, is arch-rival Bartram Trail on Tues., Dec. 15, the 2020 Class 7A champions.
“I do think that I am lighting a fire under the girls,” said Rosano. “This team is very young, but very, very good.”
Rosano’s first day at practice at Fleming Island High was as daunting as any of her big games.
“The first night I went out was a parent’s night; that was a little daunting because all the parents were up in the bleachers and it was myself and boys coach Mike Green talking from the track,” said Rosano. “But, seeing all the girls afterward and not knowing all of their skill levels, just to be able to turn around and look at the field and being back on it was exciting. I was energized; exactly like running through the tunnel at the playoff games I’ve played.”
Rosano likened the experience, again as a player, of listening to the National Anthem, then clicking to game mode.
“I had some pregame nerves, but once the National Anthem hit, it was game on,” said Rosano. “As a coach now, it was exactly the same as when I was a player. I was ecstatic.”
Rosano finished a stellar four years at Fleming Island, with a Final Four finish in 2006 and a region finals finish in 2007, then captained the Webber International University team for three of four years before embarking on her career.
“I think I was pretty good at Webber,” said Rosano. “I was kind of a midfielder defender player that hung out near midfield and directed traffic. After Webber, I kind of got out of soccer for a couple of years before getting on the recreation team with my sister Julianna, who is now 25.”
Rosano hoped that her playing experience will lend itself as her credibility to make suggestions.
“I think I have the ability to say, hey, I played and we went to the Final Four and we played big games,” said Rosano. “I want that for them. Just to be able to talk to that experience will hopefully bring some “street cred” to coin a phrase.”
Rosano remembered Jane Buzzell was the big name for Fleming Island back in her day. Buzzell, also a lacrosse athlete, eventually played lacrosse at the University of Florida.
“My biggest memory, we did have cell phones back then, but we didn’t really text, but the biggest moment for me, as a sophomore when my family moved down from New York, and we played Niceville we were not expected to even last the entire game,” said Rosano. “We upset them (2-1 win) and they had so many fans and those stupid Fatheads in the stands. We took them all by surprise. That game and any time we beat Bartram Trail.”
Hence, the aforementioned December 15 game date with Bartram Trail where Rosano could bring an unbeaten Fleming Island team to the home of the Lady Bears. Rosano has three games between now and Bartram Trail; St. Joseph, First Coast and Buchholz.