After falling behind in the game’s first six minutes, there was no panic on the Palmetto sideline.
The Panthers girls’ soccer team has been perfect all season and remained that way Wednesday after rallying past Coral Gables 2-1 in a GMAC semifinal at Tropical Park.
Palmetto (17-0), with a tough district playoff tournament looming next week, will first put its perfect mark on the line at 7 p.m. Friday at Tropical against district rival Ferguson in the GMAC title game. The Falcons were an easy 4-0 winner over MAST Academy in the second semifinal.
The game-winner for Palmetto came nine minutes into the second half when senior Stephany Diaz rifled a perfect pass down the left side for forward Ava Gruener, who barely beat Gables keeper Isabella Izquierdo to the ball and knocked it just underneath Izquierdo’s diving effort and into the net.
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“I was taking it down the line, played it back to Stephany [Diaz], who played it back over to me, and I had an opening down the line,” Gruener said. “I saw the keeper start to come out but was pretty confident I could beat her to the ball and I just barely got there before her.”
Gables (13-4-2) stunned Palmetto in the sixth minute when Lauren Kerzner beat the defense down the left side and was one-on-one with keeper Morgan Lang. Her shot bounced off the crossbar and came right back to Amy Ransom, who knocked it in.
“We never panic,” Gruener said of the early deficit. “We have a great dynamic on this team and we always keep each other up, and that was just another one of those moments where we just kept everything positive.”
Just seven minutes later, Palmetto tied it when Gruener fired a through-ball down the middle to sophomore Emily Lamas, the team’s leading scorer. Lamas easily beat Izquierdo one-on-one for her 30th goal of the season.
“Overall, we have a tendency to make games more difficult for ourselves by too many touches, but more than anything we try to find the most important pass rather than the easy pass, so that’s where that whole issue got started,” Palmetto coach Lindsay Segarra said. “When they just calm down and play the easy pass, that’s when we become more efficient and successful, so they did a good job of staying calm and making sure the job got done.”
▪ Ferguson 4, MAST Academy 0: Ferguson led 1-0 at the half but opened things up with three second-half goals to pull away to an easy victory in the other GMAC semifinal.
Alejandra Silva’s penalty kick in the game’s 13th minute following a foul in the box was the only scoring in the first half. But an Angel O’Neill goal off a nice pass from Silva in the 51st minute gave Ferguson (12-2-2) the cushion it needed.
The Falcons then added two more late goals, Silva’s second on a header off a corner kick and a Sophia Samardjich goal with five minutes left.
MAST, which has just two seniors on its roster, fell to 11-6.