RIVERA BEACH– The Okeechobee Lady Brahmans varsity soccer team’s season came to an end after they fell to Suncoast in the regional quarterfinal on Feb. 11.
The loss caps off what had been a remarkable turnaround for the program this season. Last year the Lady Brahmans finished with a 2-11 record while this season saw the team not only end with a 11-8-1 record, but play in a district championship and qualify for the regional tournament.
The success of this season also lets head coach Eric Swant go out on a high note with the program as he plans to retire after this year
“When I started coaching here, we only had 16 girls tryout,” said Swant.
“Everyone made the team and we lost almost every game. Two years later, we were blessed to have enough tryout to be able to form a JV team which was the main goal I had. Because you can’t start truly building a solid program until you have the feeder team where girls can build the skills needed to play at the faster level of varsity. We now have 50 to 60 girls trying out and I couldn’t be happier where this program is headed.”
Swant credits a lot of the success the Lady Brahmans experienced this year with the work his assistant coach Bernardo Cornejo has put into the team. Cornejo also served as head coach of the junior varsity team this season and recently founded Chobee Football Club, a girls soccer travel team in Okeechobee that concluded its inaugural season last year.
Now with Swant stepping down after this season, the program will belong to Cornejo who will take over head coaching duties next year.
“With Bernardo Cornejo stepping into coaching, the program has a chance to truly go over the top,” Swant said. “He is working nonstop to get the girls into year round type programs so the can hone their talents and work on weaknesses, instead of just for the three months we get them at school. He has the dedication and knowledge to take this to the next level.”
Even though he plans to move and settle into a more retired lifestyle, Swant says he’ll do his best to keep track of the Lady Brahmans in the future.
“I have already been promised a few games being streamed to me next year,” said Swant on his plans of keeping up to date with his former team. “And there is no doubt that if the girls start going to the next level at the state tournament, my wife Gerri and I will be there. I also would be remiss to not take a second to thank this year’s parents for stepping up. In the past, my wife and I have literally had to do everything, but this year we had 5 or 6 folks that stepped up and could not do enough to help out. They kept donating food to sell and helping to make the program the money needed to sustain it. We were so grateful to them.”