Girls’ soccer preview| St. Thomas Aquinas and Douglas

Aquinas, Douglas ready to rekindle their heated rivalry

 

St. Thomas Aquinas beat Douglas in penalty kicks in the playoffs last season. This year, the perennial powers again are eyeing a title.

Special to The Miami Herald

St. Thomas Aquinas and Douglas appear to be on a Class 5A collision course, the same one that left the latter school feeling like it had been hit by a bus three exits before its desired destination.

Aquinas, winners of a Florida-record 11 girls’ soccer state titles, returns seven starters and is seeking its third consecutive championship.

The Raiders beat Douglas in last season’s regional semifinals, but it took the seventh round of penalty kicks to finish the job.

“We thought we deserved to win,” said Douglas senior midfielder Jane Katz, who has committed to Louisiana-Lafayette. “We were upset.”

Because Douglas has won 19 district titles in a row, the Eagles plan on getting another shot at Aquinas this season.

See you in regionals

“We play with a lot of their girls in club,” Katz said, “and we joke with them: ‘We’ll see you in regionals. Get ready to lose in regionals.’

“We always win our district, and we’re pretty confident we’ll get far in regionals. We’re basically planning our season on preparing for Aquinas.”

Katz, who had nine goals and 15 assists last season to earn first-team All-Broward honors, is one of eight Douglas starters returning.

The key difference could be in goal, where Aquinas’ Megan Sweeney graduated and signed with Providence University.

To fill the hole, Aquinas is promoting last year’s third-stringer, junior Britney Macaluso.

“She’s a good goalie, but experience is going to be an issue because she didn’t get to play much the past two years,” said coach Carlos Giron, who has won all 11 of Aquinas’ state titles, dating to 1990. “We have the whole season to get her ready.”

Just like Aquinas, Douglas graduated its star keeper. In fact, Tori Danchak, who is now at Darton College in Georgia, shared first-team All-Broward honors with Sweeney.

But in contrast to Aquinas’ situation, the Eagles added veteran Liz Amanda Gonzalez, a junior who won two state titles as the starter for Delray American Heritage.

Scoring punch

If it comes down to a Douglas-Aquinas matchup in regionals, Gonzalez will be tasked with having to stop the Raiders’ 1-2 senior scoring punch of Jessica Hoyt and Sara Perlman. Last season, they scored 22 and 14 goals, respectively.

Gonzalez, though, isn’t the only prominent transfer joining Douglas this season. Defender Serena Delgado and her family moved here from Maryland, and senior Brianna Raaf, a forward/midfielder, transferred from Plantation American Heritage.

Raaf has committed to play college soccer at Central Florida.

“Brianna played with us her freshman and sophomore years,” said Stu Katz, Douglas’ coach and Jane’s father. “If we had her last year, she would’ve made an impact.”

It’s impossible to say if that impact would have tipped the scales in Douglas’ favor against Aquinas, but suffice to say that the Eagles believe in their own talents.

A power, too

After all, this is a program that won five consecutive state titles under two head coaches from 2003 to 2007.

“We take a lot of confidence in that we outplayed [Aquinas] last season for 100 minutes,” said Stu Katz, who took over the program in 2009. “We don’t feel like they were better than us. They were better on one kicker.”

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