At long last.
After knocking on the door so many times with so many talented teams that made multiple trips to the state final four and having to settle for runnerup medals twice, the Lourdes girls soccer team cleared that final hurdle on Friday afternoon.
Taking on a two-time defending state champion that had not lost a game in two years, was ranked No. 4 in the nation (Max Preps) and had given up just one goal all season long was a tall task for the Bobcats.
But an Alexa Mascaro goal with 25:08 left stood up and gave Lourdes a 1-0 victory over Oviedo in the Class 5A state championship game at Spec Martin Stadium on the campus of Stetson University.
And with that, the school took home its first state championship in any major sport and first state title of any kind since girls cross country in 2004. It also marked the first state championship in a large school classification for a Miami-Dade County team since Hialeah-Miami Lakes in 1993.
“We’ve been knocking on the door for a long time and this has been a long time coming,”said fifth year Lourdes coach Ramiro Vengoechea. “This is a group that has gotten to the final four three of the last four years and the state final three of the last five so they were hungry to find a way to get this done and what a great moment to finally see them celebrating.”
The win also avenged Lourdes’ two state championship game losses to the very same team, a 3-1 defeat two years ago and heartbreaking penalty kick shootout loss in 2013.
In a game where Lourdes (25-1) enjoyed very few scoring chances, the Bobcats took advantage of one of their few opportunities when midfielder Emma Bryan fed a perfect pass to Mascaro down the right side.
In a rare defensive breakdown for the Lions (22-1), whose last loss came to Orlando Bishop Moore in the regular season two years ago, a non-losing streak that had reached 53 games, Mascaro came free down the right side, turned it back inside and was met by Oviedo keeper Samantha Blanford. Mascaro right footed it past Blanford into the top left corner of the net.
“Emma (Bryan) fed me a nice through ball and saw I had some open field and the defender beat and just took off,” said Mascaro. “I cut in and waited to see if the keeper would commit and come out and knew I had a clean shot at back post and let it go. I’m just so excited that I was the one that was able to make history for Lourdes.”
“I chested the the ball and saw that I had space over the top to Alexa and knew she had the legs to get there if I led her enough,” said Bryan. “I knew when she broke that she was going to have a chance. I’m a senior and we’ve worked so hard for this moment. We remembered how painful it was two years ago when we lost to them so it means the world to all of us.”
With their precious one goal lead, it was then up to the Bobcats defense, led by goalkeeper Amanda Puig to spend the final 25 minutes protecting the lead which wasn’t easy as Oviedo put the full court press on, trying to create multiple scoring chances.
The Lions last good chance came with three minutes left when a foul occurred just barely outside the penalty box Sarah Preston a free kick from just 15 yards away. The ball disappeared into a pile in front of the net before trickling out and Puig made the easy save.
“The scariest 25 minutes of my life and it seemed like 25 years,” said Puig with a smile. “But I had confidence in my teammates that they would keep the area cleared for me. What a way for our seniors to go out. What a moment for this program, this school. We made history today.”