Miami Palmetto’s girls’ soccer team learned the value of perseverance a season ago.
It has led the Panthers to perfection so far this year.
“We’re clicking very well, and it’s been about perseverance following a lot of injuries last year,” Palmetto coach and alumnus Lyndsay Segarra said. “We had three players go down with ACL injuries and five injuries to key starters. But these girls have risen up and overcome.”
Led by sophomore Emily Lamas’ two second-half goals, one of which was assisted by senior Ava Gruener, Palmetto edged district rival Ferguson 2-0 in the Greater Miami Athletic Conference tournament championship Friday night at Tropical Park.
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The Panthers (18-0) kept their so far perfect record intact and secured their first GMAC championship since 2011.
“We learned last year what it was like to be underdogs,” Lamas said. “We know how to deal with adversity now, and it’s made us work even harder.”
A season after its roster was plagued by injuries, Palmetto’s youngsters like Lamas and Gruener have stepped into key roles and become some of Miami-Dade County’s top players.
Lamas’ two tallies Friday brought her season-total to 32 for the season, which leads all scorers in the ultra-competitive District 16-5A, often dubbed the county’s “district of death.”
Palmetto will head into that district’s playoffs Monday as the top seed and play South Dade, the No. 4 seed, at 5:30 p.m. at Harris Field. Third-seeded Coral Reef will take on No. 2-seed Ferguson (12-3-2) in the earlier semifinal at 3:30 p.m. The winners will face each other Wednesday for the district title at Harris Field. Ferguson secured the district title last year.
For the Panthers, the matchup is a complete role reversal from last season.
South Dade entered the district playoffs undefeated last year and won the GMAC title but was ousted in the semifinal round by Palmetto. The Panthers advanced to the regional quarterfinals and were eliminated by Ferguson.
This time, South Dade (10-4-1) enters as the upset-minded squad that has dealt with injuries.
“South Dade is hungry, and we know they will be out for vengeance for sure,” Segarra said. “I always tell our girls not to worry about things they can’t control, but it’s hard because a lot of the girls on both sides play club together and know each other well.”
Gruener has 22 goals and notched her 17th assist in the second half when she crossed a ball perfectly to her right to Lamas after each got behind most of Ferguson’s defenders. Lamas tapped it home perfectly in the upper-right corner.
Lamas’ first goal was a beautiful 30-yard, high-arching shot that got over the reach of Falcons’ goalkeeper Savannah Ward in the 65th minute.
Ferguson had a chance to score in the closing minutes, but a frantic shot in front of the net was blocked and kicked away by Palmetto goalkeeper Morgan Lang, who recorded her 11th shutout.