Things looked awfully bleak for the Cardinal Gibbons girls’ soccer team late Tuesday afternoon.
But there was perhaps one bullet left in the Chiefs’ arsenal. Her name was Alysa Vazquez.
With her team down two goals with less than 25 minutes left in the game, Vazquez put her teammates on her back and turned in a hat trick performance as Gibbons stunned host Carrollton School 3-2 in a Region 4-2A final.
The win advances the Chiefs to the state final four for the second time in school history and first time since 2009, when they lost the state championship game to Ponte Vedra in penalty kicks. Gibbons will host Tampa Academy Holy Names in a 2A state semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We knew what they were capable of doing but the bottom line is that at this point, this deep in the tournament, you’re up against other great teams and other great coaches so what we did out there today is absolutely amazing,” said Gibbons coach Margo Flack, now in her 19th year heading the program. “We told them at the (second half) water break it wouldn’t been easy, but that that’s the great part. When it’s tough and nobody thinks you can do it, you go do it.”
Gibbons (17-1-4), whose only loss this season is to undefeated and untied Archbishop McCarthy, began the long journey back with 24:31 left when Carrollton’s Virginia Moscetti fouled Vazquez inside the box. On the ensuing penalty kick, Vazquez got Carrollton keeper Sophia Morin to commit left and fired top right, just barely grazing the bottom side of the crossbar to make it 2-1.
Down to their last 12 minutes, Vazquez and the Chiefs then stunned the Carrollton crowd when Vazquez scored twice in a three-and-a-half-minute span.
She turned on a dime from 30 yards out and let go a perfect shot that was just high enough to get over the arms of Morin and just low enough to come underneath the crossbar, tying the game with 11:20 left.
Less than three minutes later, she was in the same area and cut loose on another shot that one-hopped in front of Morin. But the keeper lost the ball off her hands and it trickled into the net.
“Even though we were down, we collectively told ourselves that we could do this and show them who we are,” said Vazquez, a senior committed to American University. “We’re a tough, gritty bunch and we proved that out there today. This is so exciting to be moving on.”
Up until Vazquez began her three-goal flurry, the Cyclones (13-1-4), who were competing in their second-ever regional final having lost to Oxbridge Academy at home two years ago, had pretty much had things their way.
Alexis Diaz-Silveira, headed for Duke on a academics scholarship, stunned the Chiefs by scoring just three minutes into the game off an assist from Marian Alcantara.
Just three minutes into the second half, she then one-timed a perfect centering pass in front of the net to Natalia Hoadley who knocked it past Gibbons freshman goalkeeper Alexis DeVeaux.
But once her team got her the lead, DeVeaux was brilliant down the stretch with some remarkable saves (13 for the game) and may have gotten a break with three minutes left when a possible foul inside the box when Hoadley went down didn’t draw a whistle much to the shock of the Carrollton bench.
▪ Region 4-4A final - Archbishop McCarthy 4, West Boca 0: The Mavericks inched closer to the school’s first state championship Following their 4-0 victory over West Boca in a Region 4-4A Final at AutoNation Field on the campus University School on Tuesday.
Jessica Gonzalez sealed the victory on a Sophia Goetz assist in the 46th minute from just inside 6 yards for a two-goal lead.
McCarthy will host St. Petersburg in a state semifinal game on Friday. The state final is set for Feb. 22 at Spec Martin Memorial Stadium in Deland. McCarthy lost to in last year’s state semifinal to Estero 5-4.
Senior Sofia Mallardi scored her 12th and 13th goals of the season to lead the Mavericks. Her first goal came in the 11th minute as McCarthy led at the break 1-0. Her second tally gave her team a 4-0 lead midway through the second half.
As McCarthy’s season remained unblemished at 24-0, they seek another milestone only two other Broward girls’ soccer teams possess: An undefeated season and a state championship.
“Once you get to 16, 17, 18 wins, you want to continue to win,” said McCarthy coach Mike Sica. “You figure you would naturally lose a game here and there. At this point you tell your players everyone is undefeated.
“We want to simplify it, because if you win, you move on.”
Jade Roberts also scored for the Mavericks.
McCarthy has outscored their opponents 100-8 on the season and over the last 12 games the differential is 41-1.
“We explained to the kids that we were up only 1-0 at the half and that wasn’t enough,” said Sica. “We couldn’t afford to give up anything on a set play. We put two up top and told them to after then.”
Should McCarthy win its remaining two games, they would join St. Thomas Aquinas (1995-97, 2004) and American Heritage (2014), finishing with a perfect record and a state title.
The Bulls finished the season at 14-7-2.
▪ Region 4-3A final - Plantation American Heritage 3, North Fort Myers 1: For the fourth consecutive year, the Patriots are making their way to a state semifinal.
Host Plantation American Heritage put on a show yet again on Tuesday, defeating North Fort Myers 3-1 to clinch another regional titles. The Patriots (18-1-1) will host Largo on Friday as they attempt to win their 11th overall state title and seventh since 2009.
Junior Gaby Scarlette led the way with two goals, while senior Taylor Dobles added on a goal and an assist in the win. Olivia Roth and Sylvie Prepetit also recorded assists in the win.
▪ Region 4-1A final - Miami Country Day 1, Palmer Trinity 0: An early goal by Mia Batista off a cross from Ebba Larnholt proved to be all Miami Country Day needed to claim its second consecutive regional title and keep its quest to return to th state final alive. The Spartans (14-5-2) held off a slew of scoring opportunities by host Palmer Trinity in the second half to advance to the state semifinals. Miami Country Day won both games against Palmer Trinity this year, both by a 1-0 margin.
▪ District 8-3A quarterfinals - Hebrew Academy 42, Posnack 41: HA: Stein 13 (double-double with 12 rebounds), Lurie 10, Goldring 8, Farkas 6, Ovaknin 3, Dobin 3, Saka 2; POS: Brandwein 13, Schultz 13, Morad 10, Sagran 2, Bonkovski 2, Shany 1.
▪ District 8-3A quarterfinals - Divine Savior 49, Somerset Key 35: DS: Febies 15, Duany 13, Pena 6, Velvarde 6, Requena 4, Ramirez 3; SK: Taudi 8, Ambrose 7, Andre 6, Lordes 6, Victor 5, Deffek 3.
▪ Ransom Everglades 7, Riviera Prep 0: David Green 8-0, Zander Lake 8-0, Luke Elegant 8-6, Sebastian Crosby 8-3, Conner Munroe 8-1.
▪ Miami Springs 7, North Miami Beach 0: Faith Águila 8-0; Yamira Gonzales 8-0; Grace Águila 8-0; Faith Águila and Yamira Gonzales 8-2 in doubles.