MELBOURNE -- The emotional hugs and tears were everywhere.
A dream season that saw them advance to the state final four for the first time in only their third-ever regional appearance had come to an end for members of the Pembroke Pines Charter girls’ soccer team.
Battling a much more experienced Orange Park Fleming Island team that was playing in its fourth consecutive state semi, the Jaguars hung tough for 53 minutes before Fleming Island broke a scoreless tie and eventually went on to a 2-0 victory in a Class 4A state semifinal at Eastern Florida State College.
Fleming Island will take on defending state champion Melbourne, which defeated Bradenton Lakewood Ranch 3-0 in the other semifinal, in the championship game Saturday at 3 p.m.
“I knew it would be a battle,” said Pines Charter coach Carlos Velasquez. whose team finished 18-6-0 and was trying to join St. Thomas Aquinas, Plantation American Heritage, Douglas and Coconut Creek as the only Broward County girls’ soccer teams to win a state title. “Fleming Island is a very good team, and you don’t get to the state semis four years in a row if you’re not. It was our first time up here, and I’m proud of the girls.’’
The Golden Eagles (22-1-3), who were probably due to break through after having lost all six of their previous state semifinal appearances, broke the scoreless tie with just over 26 minutes left in regulation when Sara Urbano set up for a corner kick.
But she crossed up the Pines Charter players by dropping in a short pass to nearby Abby Austin. Austin then had plenty of space to dribble in close before left-footing a hard shot to the right side of the net. Jaguars goalkeeper Patricia Yordan dove left and got a hand on the ball but not enough of it and the ball deflected in.
Fleming Island added an insurance goal with 13 minutes left when Urbano got to a loose ball in front of the net and found the left side as a diving Yordan again got a piece of the ball but not enough.
“We had our opportunities, but we just didn’t capitalize on them,” senior forward Amy Etchechurry said.
“Going in we knew this would be a tough game and it’s painful, but we knew the team that made the fewest mistakes would win and, unfortunately, that was them.”
It was Etchechurry who had the Jaguars’ best chance to score, in the 24th minute, when Fleming Island goalie Sarah Ahern overcommitted to a loose ball and didn’t get there in time leaving the net wide open. But Etchechurry’s right angle was severe and when she lost her balance trying to beat a defender to the ball to get a foot on it, she went left of the post.
“That open-goal chance could’ve been a real decider because Fleming Island has been here a lot and lost in the semis every time,” Velasquez said. “That could’ve been one of those, ‘Oh no, here we go again’ moments for them if we pop that one in, and it could’ve helped us in a postive way and them in a negative way.”
“I couldn’t have asked for a better season,” said senior Mya Goodman, the team’s leading scorer with 20 goals and 27 assists, tears running down her face, voice cracking with emotion. “I’m extremely proud because nobody expected us to do this. We had a great coach who really believed in us and this is unlike any team I’ve played on, including club. Even though it hurts right now, I’m glad we got here and helped pave the way for future teams.”