The Cypress Creek Coyotes are not the team you want to schedule for Senior Night. That’s primarily because, thanks to last year’s rezoning of area high schools, Cypress Creek inherited a wealth of talented players that last year attended school at nearby Wesley Chapel High (WCH), gutting a program that was 19-8 last year and advanced to the Class 6A Regional semifinals before losing to eventual State champion Land O’Lakes.
The Coyotes’ entire infield and their new head coach are all former Wildcats, and they have a familiarity uncommon with new schools and new sports programs. Even Cypress Creek’s head coach Mike Peterson was an assistant at WCH the last two years, while also coaching the Tampa Lady Phantoms travel team for several years prior.
He’s coached many of the girls on his current team of Coyotes since they were seven and eight years old. Blending together a host of new players who have never shared a dugout, often one of the more difficult aspects of coaching, is not one of Peterson’s problems.
The Coyotes are off to an impressive 9-5 start as of our press time, with the losses coming against upper-echelon teams with a combined 51-10 record.
“There’s a level of trust when you have familiarity with your teammates,” junior Ashley Nickisher said. “You know that if you strike out or make an error that the other girls have your back. I have been really amazed at the way some of the new girls that came on have connected right away.”
Junior catcher Neely Peterson, already a verbal commitment to Colorado State University in Fort Collins, is leading the way.
You could say that Peterson is off to a blazing start — her .583 batting average, 10 doubles, four home runs and 29 RBI lead the team, and her homer and RBI totals lead all of Class 5A, District 7.
She’s a terrifying hitter out of the number three spot. Peterson remains the only hitter to park one off of Hernando ace Ali Shenefield, the top pitcher in the District.
“Last year, I got to learn from then-Chapel captain Dana Mumaw (now at Pasco-Hernando State College),” Peterson said. “I learned what it takes to be a good team captain.”
Nickisher is the other team captain. According to Peterson, she is a “smart infielder that makes the difficult plays look easy.” She has cooled off a little after a hot start, but is still second on the team with six doubles and two homers.
Jasmine Jackson, a junior second baseman, backs up Peterson at catcher and also can play shortstop. Coach Peterson says Jackson started the year on fire and she hasn’t let up – she has hits in 12 of the 13 games in which she has played and boasts a .444 average with 19 RBI, second to Peterson.
Junior Payton Hudson (.432) is a rangy shortstop with a strong arm and is a dangerous base runner as well, while sophomore first baseman Anna Margetis played for the Wildcats as a freshman and is currently tied with Jackson for second on the team with a .444 average.
“We’re very balanced offensively,” Peterson says. “We can hit for average or we can hit for power. It makes us a dangerous team.”
The Coyotes have very little depth in the pitching rotation – last year’s freshman phenom, Jordan Almasy, remained at WCH.
Instead, the Coyotes are riding the arm of right-handed junior Avery Lee. Lee came over from Wiregrass Ranch High (WRH) in the school re-districting, but pitched only sparingly there. She has thrown 75 of the team’s 76 innings this year, compiling a 9-4 record with a 2.52 ERA.
“She (Lee) has a good ball-to-strike ratio and she keep us in games,” Peterson says. “She’s not going to overpower batters, but she’ll allow our defense to do their job.”
Like most new schools, especially those without a senior class, Cypress Creek had a small roster of 10 players on varsity. Emma Coons (.381), Page Mulford (.273) and Alexis Aponte (.250) round out the lineup. Peterson elected to have a JV team, where there are 10 more girls who will play, instead of riding the bench on varsity.
There have been other new school troubles that are often typical. While they are off 9-4 start as of our press time, the Coyotes had to play all of their early games on the road until their home field was finished.
They also had to forfeit a game against Land O’ Lakes in February because they had a fund raiser scheduled for the same night.
However, the Coyotes are a team to keep an eye on. They are going to be relevant even in this first year. When they field a senior-heavy lineup with a year of experience next season, watch out.
“It’s really been a joy coaching these kids since they were seven or eight and seeing the fruits of their labors,” Peterson said. “They put the hard work in and I hope to get a chance to watch many of them play at the next level.”