Looking to keep a perfect record, the South Dade girls’ soccer team did just that on Friday night and captured its second GMAC championship in the past three years at the same time.
That following the Bucs’ 2-0 victory over district rival Ferguson in the GMAC championship game at Milander Stadium that improved their record to 18-0.
And while the South Dade girls celebrated, the celebration was modest. That’s because the real work begins next week when they enter the district playoffs and the so-called “district of death.” It was two years ago, just days after winning their first-ever GMAC title, that they were shocked in the district semifinals by Coral Reef and saw their season come to a stunning premature end.
“Two years ago was a little different because we lost our top scorer which still isn’t an excuse but yes, the girls — it’s on their minds for sure,” said South Dade coach Erin Shelow, now in her fourth year running the program. “They think there is a GMAC curse, so we’re trying to nix that this year because it also happened to our boys the very same year. It has their attention. I told them to just go out and play and keep doing what we’ve been doing and we’ll be alright.”
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Having already won a pair of close games against Ferguson during the regular season, the Bucs knew that getting an early lead on Friday night was key, and that’s exactly what happened in the game’s 13th minute.
That’s when McKenzie VanHeusen rifled a perfect corner kick right in front of the net that Bania Duran knocked in the top left corner for a 1-0 lead.
“I always try and find her [Duran] because she’s good with her head, and at practice she’s always the one in the middle and I found her tonight,” said VanHeusen. “Getting that early goal was huge, especially against this team because the last two times we played them we got early goals and it really set the tempo for us and we were hyped the rest of the game [Friday night].”
The game was evenly played the rest of the way with both teams getting quality chances but each getting turned away with nice saves by both keepers, South Dade’s Brittany Hoskins and Ferguson’s Savannah Ward.
With four minutes left in regulation, South Dade finally got the insurance goal it was looking for when Thalia Leal rocketed a pinpoint shot from 25 yards out into the top right corner of the net.
The game was marked by plenty of chippy play and a few yellow cards which, according to Shelow didn’t come as a surprise.
“Both teams always come out and play really hard against each other, it’s just a little rivalry we’ve had especially since they moved into our district a few years ago,” said Shelow. “It does get chippy because everybody plays hard and physical and it’s tough because you get two really good teams playing each other so often and we could actually face them twice more depending on what happens.”
South Dade will host its district tournament at Harris Field and likely take on Palmetto next Tuesday in a district semifinal while Ferguson, the defending GMAC champion, fell to 13-6-1, and will likely meet Coral Reef. If both win, meeting number four would be in the district final with a fifth in a regional semifinal also a possibility.
“It feels great to get the win but now the really tough work starts next week,” said VanHeusen.