Emily Vasquez and Chyanne Dennis have been playing soccer together since they were 7 years old.
And Thursday afternoon, with their Plantation American Heritage team looking to knock off Merritt Island for a fourth consecutive year, this time in a Class 3A state semifinal game at Eastern Florida State College, it paid off.
Vasquez and Dennis, both sophomores who know each other’s every move, combined to score both goals and both assists as the Patriots knocked off the Mustangs 2-0 in a rematch of last year’s state title game.
Heritage (20-1-2) will look for its third consecutive state title on Friday at 8:05 p.m. when the Patriots square off against Land O’ Lakes in the 3A state championship game. Land O’ Lakes, which will bring a 24-1 record into the game, knocked off Ponte Vedra in overtime penalty kicks in the other semifinal.
With inclement weather playing a big factor as heavy wind accompanied by cold, rainy conditions dictated strategy, Heritage took advantage of the wind in the first half by scoring both goals, and it was the one-two punch of Vasquez and Dennis that turned the trick.
In the game’s 22nd minute, Vasquez rifled a perfect corner kick in front of the net, and Dennis was right there to head it in. Just four minutes later, Dennis returned the favor when she dribbled past a pair of Merritt Island defenders and put a perfect centering pass in front of the net for Vasquez and she knocked it home to make it 2-0.
And with the Patriots enjoying a significant wind advantage, getting the lead in the first half was vital.
“It definitely was important to get out in front because of the conditions, and that allowed us to play a little bit more defensive in the second half,” Vasquez said.
Sure enough, when the whistle blew to begin play in the second half, the Heritage girls played smart, conservative soccer with good station-to-station passes, often keeping the ball on the ground.
As a result, the frustrated Mustangs, (16-3-3) who were eliminated by Heritage in the regional finals in 2012 and ’13 before losing the state final last year, simply could not create any quality chances.
Heritage is now one win away from the program’s ninth state championship and will be looking for a second three-peat, having done it before from 2000 to 2002.
If you go
What: The state girls’ soccer finals.
When: Through Saturday.
Where: Eastern Florida State College, 3865 N. Wickham Rd., Melbourne.
Admission: $9 per session; Parking: $5.
Thursday’s results: Class 3A semifinals: Land O’Lakes 2, Ponte Vedra 1 (PK 4-3); Plantation American Heritage 2, Merritt Island 0; Class 1A final: St. Johns Country Day vs. Lakeland Christian, inc.; Class 2A final: Jacksonville Bolles vs. Delray American Heritage, inc.
Friday’s schedule: Class 4A semifinals: Navarre vs. Viera, 10 a.m.; Pembroke Pines Charter vs. Venice, 12:30; Class 5A semifinals: Oviedo vs. Palm Harbor University, 3; St. Thomas Aquinas vs. Wellington, 5:30; Class 3A final: Plantation American Heritage vs. Land O’Lakes, 8.
Saturday’s schedule: Class 4A final: 12:05; Class 5A final: 3:05.