Right after they had defeated South Broward in a regional quarterfinal last week, the talk immediately turned to the Miami Springs girls soccer team’s next opponent, Pembroke Pines Charter. How talented they were and what a big challenge the Springs girls would have in front of them.
Last Tuesday night (Jan. 28), the Lady Hawks traveled to Broward County and got a first hand account of just exactly what everyone was talking about. That’s because Pines Charter dominated from the opening whistle and cruised to a surpisingly easy 4-0 win in a Region 4-4A semifinal contest at Pines Charter High School.
The win advances the Jaguars (18-5-1), making only their third appearance in a regional round, to their first-ever regional final where they will travel north to take on Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer on Friday, Jan. 31 with a berth in the state final four in Melbourne on the line.
For Springs? A strange feeling for sure. For only the second time in the last 10 years, the Lady Hawks, who finished 21-3-1, will not be a part of the regional finals and Tuesday night marked their first defeat in the regional semifinal round since 2003.
“No doubt about it, we just got beat by a better team tonight,” said Springs head coach William Drew putting it about as bluntly as a coach could. “Their speed, ball-handling, everything about them was impressive. They simply don’t have any weaknesses and I expect them to keep playing for awhile.”
Drew could only watch as Pines Charter came out and immediately established it’s superior speed and ball-handling skills as the Jaguars completely dominated the first half.
They scored their first goal just seven minutes into the game when Samantha Toribio took a centering pass from Courtney Zaher in front of the net and knocked it past Springs keeper Brianna Gomez.
Pines Charter never found another gear but full throttle as Amy Etchechurry scored from a severe right angle in the 21st minute to make it 2-0 and Rachel Lorenzo knocked one home five minutes before halftime to make it 3-0 and pretty much end the issue.
The Jaguars throttled things back in the second half and played more of a keepaway style to protect the lead before Zaher knocked one in just 10 befores the final whistle blew to end the scoring.
Springs’ best chance to avoid the shutout came midway through the second half. That’s when Alyssa Deno beat two Pines Charter defenders down the middle to create a one-on-one situation with PC keeper Patricia Yordan. But when Yordan came out to meet her, Deno’s margin of error shrunk and her shot went 12 inches to the right of the post.
But whether Deno had scored or not probably made no difference. Pines Charter was clearly in control of things all night long. Their one-touch ball handling skills were remarkable and their overall team speed was off the charts.
Team captain Ale Salazar who wound up with 40 goals this season and will once again be a near lock for First-Team All-County, knew just exactly what the Springs girls were getting themselves into.
“I play club ball with a lot of them and knew how good they were coming up here tonight,” said Salazar with moist eyes from emotional embraces with some of her teammates having played her last game of a brilliant four-year career. “We needed to come out aggressive and instead it wound up being them (Pines Charter) who came out like they really wanted it more.
“We really didn’t do a good job of marking in the middle and kind of did a little too much ball-watching early on and they made us pay for it,” said Drew. “You can’t do that against a good team and that was definitely a good team out there tonight.”
But, as Salazar and the Springs girls slowly trudged off to their bus in the parking lot, the reality stick had clobbered them right in the face. They probably could’ve played a best of seven with Pines Charter and still not have won a game and they knew it.
“Their speed, their ball-touching, passing, everything is just so crisp and they just don’t have a weakness,” said Salazar who shared a hug when the game was over with PC’s leading scorer Mya Goodman, one of her club ball teammates. “They have a good shot to take it all the way.”
And for Salazar, it marked the end of a brilliant four year career at Springs, one that saw her score 40 goals her senior year.
“I’m proud to have worn a Springs uniform for four years,” said Salazar, her voice cracking with emotion. “I’m proud to have been a captain of this team and proud that so many of my teammates looked to me for leadership. I wound’t trade the memories for anything.”