After winning it seven out of eight previous years, taking home the district championship trophy had become as routine as changing clothes for the Miami Springs girls soccer program between 2005 and 2012.
But, after getting upset by Mater Academy in last year’s district title game, there was a little bit more hunger for the Springs girls when they took the field against TERRA this past Thursday night (Jan. 16) in the District 16-4A championship game at Traz Powell Stadium.
And when the whistle blew 90 minutes after the game started, the Springs girls headed for the center of the field for a modest celebration following their 2-0 victory over TERRA. Modest because, having beaten the Wolves twice during the regular season by a combined 10-2, the Lady Hawks were clearly favored to win the district title.
But that still didn’t stop them from smiling and laughing when posing for cameras in front of the net hoisting their hardware after the game.
“I think we had gotten a little spoiled and taken it for granted when Mater beat us last year,” said junior Sophia De La Puente. “It wasn’t a good feeling and we wanted to come out here tonight and put that trophy back where it belongs, in our school trophy case.”
“We definitely stubbed our toe last year and I think the girls learned a lesson that nothing is automatic and came out here tonight determined to make things right again,” said Springs head coach William Drew. “Even though tonight was closer than the first two games (6-1, 4-1) I still felt like we played pretty solid all night long.”
Springs moves on to the regional quarterfinal round where the Lady Hawks will host South Broward on Thursday, Jan. 23 at Traz Powell.
Drew and assistant coach Tom Okubo watched as the game’s first 20 minutes were played pretty evenly. Whether it was the cold, frigid temperatures on this night or not, it took awhile for the Lady Hawks to get things cranked.
Then, in the game’s 25th minute, Springs finally dented the scoreboard when Annette Cea got a nice centering pass from Alyssa Deno and, despite being a good 20 yards out from the net, let go of a perfectly placed shot into the top right corner of the net past diving TERRA goalkeeper Adriana Speckmaier to make it 1-0.
Seven minutes later De La Puente popped a perfect through ball down the middle to senior captain Ale Salazar who beat two TERRA defenders to create a one-on-one with Speckmaier. Salazar juked Speckmaier with a fake and then harmlessly knocked the ball into the empty net to make it 2-0.
Springs continued to dominate the remainder of the first half and when Deno appeared to be fouled inside the box, Springs thought it would be awarded a penalty kick. But, much to the shock of Drew and Okubo, no call was forthcoming.
But if Springs players thought TERRA might just cave and give up in the second half, they were seriously mistaken.
A magnet school from the southwest part of the county which focuses on the environment and only in its fourth year of existence, TERRA was making its first appearance in a district championship in any sport and came out pressing in the second half.
The Hawks didn’t get nearly as many scoring opportunities and twice, midway through the second half and with just 10 minutes left, the Wolves came within an eyelash of scoring and cutting the Springs lead in half.
Twice, Sofia Aviles took a a free kick following a Springs foul from about 30 yards out and twice she executed a perfect kick. Both times the ball appeared to be headed just above the outstretched arms of Springs keeper Brianna Gomez and just under the crossbar.
But both times, Gomez, just a freshman but an outstanding athlete with a bright future, leaped and managed to get one hand on the ball. The first ball went just over the crossbar and the second actually hit the bottom of the crossbar and bounced straight down. Gomez managed to reach out and grab the loose ball before it trickled into the net even though the TERRA bench had jumped up thinking they had scored.
“We changed a few things around tonight but for the most part I think it might’ve been a mental block for us during the regular season,” said TERRA coach Monica Mejia when asked why the game had been much more competitive than the two regular season contests. “You go up against a team like Springs with such a rich history and perhaps our girls might’ve been a little intimidated the first two times. But I think after tonight, they realize what they’re capable of doing and that will help us moving forward.”
And, because both district title game participants advance to the regional playoffs, TERRA isn’t done but will have a big task next week as they will travel to Broward County to take on a very good and talented Pembroke Pines Charter team.
Should Springs, which has advanced to the regional final each of the last two seasons only to be turned away by eventual state champion Melbourne, win its game with South Broward, the Lady Hawks will square off against the TERRA/Pines Charter winner on Jan. 28.
“We’re excited to be district champs again and looking forward to moving on,” said Salazar who now has 39 goals on the season. “We played pretty well tonight and probably should’ve been able to score a few more times but the important thing is we won and are bringing the district trophy back home again.”