After spending the past three months winning 23 of 25 games and carving a path all the way to only its second state championship game, the Lourdes girls’ soccer team saw it all come apart. And it took all of just 18 seconds.
That’s all the time it took for the Bobcats to give up two goals early in the game and dig themselves a deficit they could never climb out of in falling 3-1 to Oviedo in the Class 5A state championship game Saturday afternoon at Melbourne High School.
Besides looking to right a wrong from three years ago when it dropped a penalty-kick heartbreaker to the same team on the same field in the state title game, Lourdes was looking to become only the second team in Miami-Dade County history to win a large-school classification championship, which only Hialeah-Miami Lakes has done (1993). Coral Gables and Miami Springs also won it in 1982 and 1988, respectively, but that was back when there was only one classification.
But the wait will continue for Dade as the Bobcats only saw things get worse after Oviedo’s quick two-goal barrage in the game’s eighth minute when the Lions (21-2) knocked a third goal just five minutes later to make it 3-0.
“It was all self-inflicted, and our own mistakes created those early opportunities and they took advantage of them,” Lourdes coach Ramiro Vengoechea said. “At the end of day, in a state championship game you just can’t make mistakes like that. Sure, we could blame it on nerves. But to be honest, that would be taking away from Oviedo. They’re a very good team and you can’t dig yourself that kind of early hole and expect to climb out of it against a team like that.”
To the credit of his players, Vengoechea watched his team keep battling the rest of the way, even popping one in the back of the net when Victoria Munoz scored from the right side.
But only 13 minutes 46 seconds were left in the game at that point as the Lions, who captured their third state championship in program history (all coming in the past six years) spent the final 60 minutes of the game playing smart, station-to-station possession soccer with solid defense. They limited Lourdes to just four legitimate shots on goal.
“It was just a struggle at the beginning,” junior midfielder and team captain Natalie Silberman said. “I’m not sure if it was nerves or what but we just weren’t on our game at the start and it wound up costing us. We tried to come back and did everything we could but you just can’t allow yourself to fall behind a good team like that so fast and expect it to be a good outcome.”
Following Oviedo’s first goal, when Camille Copperthite centered a pass to Payton Grewal, who knocked it past Lourdes keeper Amanda Puig, the Lions dumped another long ball from the center of the field toward the Lourdes net. When Puig came well to clear it, Copperthite intercepted it and sent it toward the goal. Puig tried to chase it down but couldn’t get there, and it was 2-0 with 31:07 left in the first half.
Five minutes later, Copperthite scored again when Grewal fed her a pass down low and she one-touched it past Puig to make it 3-0, leaving Lourdes (23-3) with its huge deficit.
“I managed to get past a couple of their defenders and at that point when you’re down three goals, you just have to put anything you can get your feet on toward the net,” Munoz said of her goal. “I managed to put it just high enough to get over the keeper’s head and just low enough to get it under the crossbar. When I scored, we had hope and I thought there still might be enough time, but I guess it didn’t happen.”
Said Vengoechea: “[Saturday] was disappointing, but I’m still proud of my girls for the way they continued to fight all the way to the final whistle. Other teams might have caved after giving up three quick goals but our girls didn’t. It was a great season, getting to a state final is extremely difficult and these girls worked hard to get here. Nothing will take away from that.”
State girls’ soccer
Class 5A: Oviedo 3, Lourdes 1
Class 4A: Viera 2, Niceville 1
Class 3A: Plantation American Heritage 2, Ponte Vedra 0
Class 2A: Jacksonville Bolles 4, Orlando Bishop Moore 1
Class 1A: Orange Park St. Johns Country Day 5, Community School/Naples 0