Hernandez finding her niche for Fairhaven girls soccer

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Finding herself in unique situations is nothing new for Stephanie Hernandez, a forward and midfielder on the Fairhaven High School girls soccer team.

Hernandez is the only senior starter for coach Derek Galvam (senior Sara daCosta splits time with the varsity and the jayvee) and she’s lived most of her life in Ireland, where her father was born.

“Living in Ireland (the town of Roscrea in County Tipperary) was different, but I loved it,” Hernandez said. “The pace of life was a lot slower.”

Hernandez and her family moved back to Fairhaven, where her parents met, two years ago after 12 years overseas. She played for a Blue Devils team that finished 12-5-3 last season and advanced to the Division 3 South Sectional quarterfinals.

“Last year was a really big adjustment for Stephanie,” Galvam said. “She had a lot of things to deal with on and off the field, but she made some nice contributions to the team’s success.”

Things are different this year. Fairhaven lost eight seniors to graduation and the Blue Devils (3-5-2 overall and in the South Coast Conference) are having a tough time with a young, inexperienced team.

“Twelve out of the 19 players on our varsity roster are freshmen or sophomores. This is the youngest team I’ve ever had. I’ve never been in this situation before, because we’ve always had veteran teams,” Galvam said. “We have a lot of new kids who are getting on-the-job training in a very competitive league and they’re still adjusting to that. Right now, we’re just trying to hang tough and put some experience under our belts.”

Despite being one of the Blue Devils’ elder statesmen, Hernandez doesn’t feel she has the experience to be a team leader.

“I like helping out my younger teammates, but we’re all in the same boat this season and we all have to depend on each other,” Hernandez said. “This is the first time we’re all playing together and we’ve taken some hits. It’s been tough, but we all know that hard work pays off and we’ve already made a lot of progress. We’re going to be a team to watch as the season progresses.”

Galvam has had to do a lot more coaching this season, but he likes what he’s seen from his team in terms of effort and a desire to get better.

“The kids all have great attitudes and everybody’s working hard,” Galvam said. “They’re very coachable, they listen to what we tell them and they pick things up quickly at practice. We’re going to take our lumps this season, but we’re getting better and that’s all that matters right now.”

Hernandez, who enjoys art class and would like to be an interior designer someday, said she and her teammates are refusing to get down on themselves.

“Our goal is to continue working hard together and keep making progress,” Hernandez said. “We still have a lot of games left to play and you never know what can happen. All we can do is keep trying to get better, hope that we can turn things around and peak towards the end of the season.”

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