PALM HARBOR — The ‘buy-in’ moment.
That’s what new Palm Harbor University boys soccer coach Wipoj Huse is patiently awaiting.
Breaking into an unfamiliar sideline, especially as an outsider, can be difficult for any coach at any level; not to mention trying to do so at a three-time state championship program hard-wired for success.
Despite an uncharacteristically slow start to the season – the ‘Canes are 9-5 heading into an end-of-week showdown with rival East Lake – Huse, 38, is embracing the challenge, optimistic that he possesses the talent to win while learning his new team.
“I take all the blame right now as my responsibility as a head coach,” Huse said last week following a rough 2-1 loss against usual non-threat Clearwater. “I’m still learning them tremendously.
“The playoffs are coming pretty quickly, but hopefully we’ll come together next week.”
Huse, currently a teacher in PHU’s fine arts department, coached high school for six years in New York at Middle Place High School on Long Island. Between the gigs, though, he’s been in the Palm Harbor area for about four years, previously teaching at Palm Harbor Middle School.
In that time Huse familiarized himself with the PHU boys program and is well-aware of the Hurricanes’ illustrious history.
“It’s challenging and it’s a tough task taking over because Coach [Alex] Delgado was an excellent coach,” Huse said, mentioning his predecessor who won one state title as PHU coach and the program’s first ever as a player in 2002. “I’m just trying to do the best I can right now, but I do enjoy it.”
Huse and the ‘Canes have had their moments this season but consistency continues to prove elusive.
Considering PHU’s daunting district this year, figuring out how to avoid the steep drops in their roller-coaster ride may be the difference between staying home and advancing into the Class 5A regional tournament. East Lake, Plant and Steinbrenner are all currently playing at a higher level and only two can advance into the postseason.
PHU hasn’t sat out two consecutive regional tournaments since its run of 10 appearances in 12 years began in 2002. After being upset by St. Petersburg last season and missing out, that stretch of impressiveness is at risk of coming to an end.
For PHU to avoid such a demise, the cohesiveness that comes with players buying in to Huse’s program may be its best shot.