Playing in your first state championship game in a hostile environment against a team with a loud supportive crowd, the last thing you need to do is give up a goal in the first minute.
But that’s exactly what happened to the Pembroke Pines Charter girls’ soccer team Saturday afternoon, and the Jaguars never recovered as things only got worse. A lot worse.
That’s because Viera, a school just eight years old and 10 miles to the north that had a big home crowd yelling in support, pulled away and cruised to a 4-0 victory over Pines Charter in the Class 4A state championship game at Eastern Florida State College.
With the game barely a minute old, Pines goalkeeper Patricia Yordan dove to her left to stop a shot, but when a Jaguars defender tried to clear it, it hit Viera’s Tori Clark right in the chest. Clark then fired it into the top right corner of the net past a diving Yordan, and just like that it was 1-0.
“That first goal was devastating to the girls because we’ve been on the other side of that so many times,” said Pines Charter coach Carlos Velasquez, whose team finished 21-2-1. “Our strategy is always to come out strong in the first five minutes with everything you’ve got, scare your opponent, show them you’re in for 80 minutes of battle, and in this instance I think it had the opposite effect.
“The girls started screaming at each other and we just basically came apart and never recovered.”
The Jaguars struggled for the remainder of the first half to mount any kind of offensive attack as Viera (20-2) did a good job of marking Pines’ two forwards, Courtney Zaher and Adriana Robles. And when the Hawks’ Hollyn Knight beat PC defenders down the right side and knocked one past Yordan with 12:46 left in the first half, the Jaguars found themselves in a 2-0 hole.
Then, with the clock winding down under 30 seconds until the half, Viera’s Nicki Fisher was awarded a direct kick from 30 yards out after a foul and threaded a perfect shot into the top left corner of the net that Yordan didn’t have much of a chance with. It made the score 3-0, and the looks on the faces of the Pines Charter players said it all.
“That one cooked us, we were done,” Velasquez said. “The girls knew they weren’t getting out from this one. Give Viera a ton of credit, they just whipped our tails.”
It marked just the third state title in any sport for Viera, which won girls’ golf titles in 2011 and 2014.
“I think that they [Viera] really had a lot of communication with each other and played well as a team where I think we really struggled with that part of it for whatever reason,” Zaher, a senior playing in her last game, said as she wiped away tears of disappointment.
“I think and hope that the seniors have helped blaze the trail of future success for the program, and I’m proud to have been a part of that.”
Said Yordan, another senior wrapping up her high school career: “We made history last year making it to state for the first time and history this year by getting to the state final for the first time.
“Even though things didn’t go well [Saturday], I’m still proud of what we accomplished this season.”