The state’s most-decorated girls soccer program just got a little more decorated Friday afternoon.
The St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders, frustrated all afternoon by lousy luck and a hot goalkeeper on the other side, finally got the goal they needed with 13:21 left in regulation and added an insurance goal eight minutes later that paved the way for a 2-0 victory over St. Johns Creekside in the Class 4A state championship game at Spec Martin Municipal Stadium.
The victory notched state title No. 15 for the Raiders (22-1-2), their fifth championship in the last seven years. They are now five clear of their nearest pursuer, Plantation American Heritage. It also put the St. Thomas girls into even more rarified air.
The Raiders, whose only loss this season came in an out-of-town holiday tournament to Monte Vista, California, now share the national record for state championships with Manchester West (New Hampshire), Northfield (Vermont), Denville Morris Catholic (New Jersey), and Manchester Derryfield (New Hampshire).
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“Just a great job by the girls of battling and finding a way to come out on top today,” said 35-year St. Thomas coach Carlos Giron, who has been around for all 15 titles that started in 1990 and included a state-record seven straight from 1993-99. “We had a lot of chances early on but couldn’t get one in the net. It was just a matter of staying with it and that’s exactly what the girls did.”
Giron watched for 66 minutes as his frustrated players saw numerous quality chances to take the lead get turned away thanks to one shot off the crossbar, another off the right post and a few amazing saves by Creekside keeper Madeline Behan.
Finally the Raiders got the goal they needed, and it was only fitting that the two senior captains and the team’s top two scorers, Isabella Dorosy and Chloe O’Neill combined for the score.
Dorosy, who had had numerous chances against Behan all game long, got another one when she broke loose down the right side and was one-on-one in front of the net.
But rather than try and fire right away, she was patient and saw O’Neill coming up to her left and centered a perfect ball that O’Neill blasted into the net to put the Raiders up 1-0. Tara Hamilton found a loose ball bouncing around in front of the net off a corner kick from Mary McCormick and knocked it home with 5:08 left for an insurance goal.
“Their keeper [Behan] is really talented and had made a bunch of great saves during the game so I knew, even though I was point on goal, I had to see if I could find somebody and dish it,” said Dorosy who is off to Florida State next year to join older sister Dallas. “I saw Chloe at the last second and fed her perfectly. We’ve been doing it together for years and always know where the other one is always going to be and we needed it at that moment.”
“When we were talking [during second-half water break] Carlos [Giron] told us to slot it in because their keeper had been making some great saves so I knew I had to be there just in case Bella wanted to send it back to me,” said O’Neill, who will take her soccer talents to Ohio State next year. “I trust her enough to take it but I guess she wanted to be safe and play it across and I was there for her. What a great moment for us.”
It also erased the nightmare of a year ago. That’s when the Raiders found themselves in a similar type of game against Viera in a state semifinal, where they dominated the entire game, only to give up a late goal in the waning moments to suffer a 1-0 defeat, denying them a shot at a third straight championship.
“Yeah, that Viera game was in the back of my mind,” said Dorosy, who finished the season with 36 goals, one ahead of O’Neill’s 35. “You have to make sure something like that doesn’t get in your head because then it becomes negative energy. It was just a matter of having the confidence that everything would eventually turn out the way we wanted and that’s what happened. It feels so special to be a part of something like this.”
State soccer finals
When: Through Saturday.
Where: Spec Martin Memorial Stadium, 260 E Euclid Ave, DeLand.
Admission: $9 per session.
Friday’s girls’ results – Class 3A: Merritt Island 1, Jacksonville Stanton 0 (4-2 on PK); Class 4A: St. Thomas Aquinas 2, St. Johns Creekside 0; Class 5A: Oviedo 3, Boca Raton 1.
Saturday’s boys’ schedule – Class 3A: Merritt Island vs. Daytona Beach Seabreeze, 10:05 a.m.; Class 4A: Doral Academy vs. Orange Park Fleming Island, 1; Class 5A: Cypress Bay vs. Bradenton Lakewood Ranch, 4.