Girls’ Soccer

Rookie coach sparks title surge

 

Coach Natasha Lopes has molded Coral Reef into a dangerous team heading into the District 16-5A title match Wednesday against Palmetto.

Special to The Miami Herald

Led by a 22-year-old rookie coach who spent much of the past four years on a ship in Japan, Coral Reef is one of the surprises of the girls’ soccer season.

After upsetting GMAC champion South Dade on Monday, the Barracudas (10-3-7) will play Palmetto (14-3) on Wednesday for the District 16-5A title at 4 p.m. at Tropical Park.

The Cudas beat South Dade 1-0 in double overtime on a goal by freshman Carina Rodriguez. It was only her second goal of the season, but it was huge.

The play was set up by sophomore forward Kylan Becker, whose speed and hustle drew a foul. Junior goalie Monique Salazar, who had the shutout, took the free kick from 35 yards out, and Rodriguez collected the rebound off a South Dade defender to end the long match.

“We were exhausted,” said Cudas coach Natasha Lopes, whose girls had played 98 minutes before getting the golden goal. “But I always tell the kids: ‘Your body can do more than what you think it can.’ ”

Lopes, who is an American of Brazilian descent, is proof of that. At age 17, she enlisted in the Navy and worked her way up to gunner’s mate second-class petty officer.

When she finished active duty in May, she moved to Miami, where she had some aunts and uncles.

Lopes had played high school soccer in Virginia but had little experience coaching beyond doing some camps.

Still, in September, she got the job at Coral Reef on her first try and quickly greeted 80 girls who tried out for the team.

Lopes selected 18 for the varsity and battled through a tough schedule, losing twice to South Dade and twice to Palmetto and tying highly regarded Gulliver.

Meanwhile, South Dade (15-2-2) was not quite 100 percent Monday.

Winning three matches in four days to take the GMAC title last week had taken a physical toll on the players, including top scorer Jade Hayes, who hurt her knee. She played through the injury Monday, logging close to 80 minutes.

Ironically, South Dade coach Erin Shelow works as a physical education teacher at Coral Reef and is very familiar with the Cudas program.

“I said all year that I didn’t want to see Coral Reef in the [district] semifinals,” Shelow said. “We outshot them 20-5 [on Monday], but they have a strong team. I’m not surprised.”

Read more Miami-Dade High Schools stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category