The American Heritage girls’ soccer team has been on a mission all season.
After dropping a demoralizing state final to Ponte Vedra in penalty kicks last year, the Patriots have wanted nothing other than to return to that championship game — and this time win it.
After a 3-0 win over Seminole Osceola at home in the Class 3A state semifinal Friday night and a 1-0 Ponte Vedra win over New Port Richey Mitchell in the other half of the bracket, American Heritage will get its rematch.
“We definitely want to see Ponte Vedra because we have a big revenge to take on them,” American Heritage coach Cindy Marcial said. “This is what we’ve been working all year for. Since the day we left last year at states, this is all we’ve been looking at.
"We want to play Ponte Vedra, and we want to take it to them, which I think we’re going to do."
The Class 3A state final will be played Feb. 9 at Melbourne High School.
Martha Thomas had a hand in all three goals for the Patriots (24-2), scoring twice and assisting another goal.
“Making an impact in state semis is great, but at the end of the day it’s about the team and it was a whole team effort,” said Thomas, who has been on and off the field all year with injuries.
Two of the Patriots’ goals against Osceola (19-2-1) came in the first four minutes of the second half to break a scoreless first-half tie.
First Thomas one-timed a feed in the box from Melanie Monteagudo off her left thigh to shoot the ball passed Osceola goalkeeper Jessica Brown.
“It was a great cross-in, and it’s just try and get your head on it, your feet on it, whatever you want,” Thomas said. “I ended up getting my thigh on it, and it went in the goal.”
Thomas then found a wide-open Alyssa Robinson, who had nothing but Brown between her and the net. Brown left the goal to try and get to the ball before Robinson, but Robinson had already snuck it passed her to let it slowly roll into the net.
In the 72nd minute, American Heritage tacked on a third goal when Thomas connected on a header off a long assist from Robinson.
After penalty kicks eliminated American Heritage last year, it seems the Patriots have been staying as far away as possible from them. In their four playoff wins, they’ve shut out every opponent and have won their matches by a combined 21 goals.
"We are practicing our penalty kicks at every single practice since districts just in case it happens," Thomas says. "At the end of the day, we’re hoping it’s not going to happen, but if it does, we’re prepared."
With last year’s loss and the Patriots’ back-to-back state titles in 2009 and 2010, American Heritage will now be playing in its fourth state final in the past five years.