After basically flying off the radar since the school opened 20 years ago, the girls soccer program at Coral Reef High School stepped on to the big stage Friday night.
The Barracudas, after qualifying for the GMAC championship game for the first time ever, finished the job, winning its first ever title after defeating Miami Springs 1-0 at Tropical Park Stadium.
Coral Reef remained undefeated at 17-0 and will enter next week’s district tournament as the No. 1 seed. Miami Springs, whose only other defeat this season came to the same team back in early December, fell to 18-2-1.
Coral Reef scored what would turn out to be the only goal of the night in just the game’s seventh minute. Tianna Rivera knifed a perfect pass down the middle that reached Rayquel Berry who got behind the Springs defense. Faced with a one-on-one with Springs keeper Brianna Gomez, Berry rocketed a shot that glanced high off Gomez’s hands but came down just under the crossbar for the score.
“I saw the open space through the gap and Tianna did a good job of getting me the ball,” said Barry of her score. “Once I was one on one with the keeper, I didn’t have any time to do anything but get a foot on it and let it go.”
Berry and the Barracudas probably should’ve had at least four or five more goals on the night but Gomez was nothing short of spectacular as she stoned five one-on-one chances, three from Berry.
“I can’t really be upset with my girls because they worked hard to get good shots but sometimes you just have to take your hat off to a hot goalkeeper and she (Gomez) was really something tonight,” said Coral Reef head coach Deano Nunez. “Fortunately we managed to get one in early and that was enough.”
It was enough because Coral Reef’s defense did a pretty good job of protecting the goal all night long. Even though Springs, after being dominated in the first half, pressed the action in the second half, the Hawks never really got a quality scoring chance. That was until the final 30 seconds.
That’s when freshman Gabi Cimino found an opening in the corner, put a move on two Reef defenders and had a clear angle shot at the goal. But Reef goalkeeper Montana Ligman dove to her right and speared the ball as the whistle blew ending the game.
“I knew there were just a few seconds left and knew she (Cimino) would have to turn on the ball quick and get a foot on it,” said Ligman who is committed to Rhode Island University. “That allowed me to anticipate the shot and I played a perfect line.”
Said Nunez: “This thing started a few years ago when I got here and brought a strong group of freshmen in and now we’re really seeing things come together. We’re honored to bring the GMAC trophy back to the school for the first time but now the real work begins next week in districts. We can’t take anything for granted and need to keep working hard.”