One year after suffering a bitterly disappointing upset loss in the state semifinals to Viera, denying it a chance at a third consecutive state title, there would be no disappointment this time for the St. Thomas Aquinas girls’ soccer team.
Hosting St. Petersburg in a Class 4A state semifinal at Brian Piccolo Stadium on Friday, the Raiders scored early and often, leaving no drama as they drilled St. Pete 8-0, punching their ticket to next week’s state championship game.
The Raiders (21-1-2) will travel to Spec Martin Stadium in DeLand to take on St. Johns Creekside in the 4A state title game next Friday at 1 p.m. St. Thomas will be looking for its fifth state title in the past seven years and a state-leading 15th overall.
“This is the kind of soccer we need to be playing at this time of year, and the girls did a good job tonight of coming out and taking care of business early on,” St. Thomas coach Carlos Giron said. “Last year, they came out not really that fired up and ultimately paid for it [in the 1-0 loss to Viera]. I think they learned their lesson and hopefully will be OK and finish it off next week.”
Giron watched as his girls executed like a well-oiled machine, dominating the Green Devils (17-3) from the opening whistle.
Chloie O’Neal got the goal train rolling seven minutes into the game off an assist from Sarah Davis, followed by Vanessa Lica’s goal two minutes later.
That’s when the team’s leading scorer and Florida State commit Isabella Dorosey recorded an unassisted goal with 18:51 left in the half and then a point-blank shot in front of the net after a perfect centering pass from O’Neal with 12:46 left. Julia Grosso and Morgan Armstrong added the other two first-half goals.
Grosso scored her second goal early in the second half and then finished it off with her third goal with 20:22 left, ending the game on the mercy rule.
“Last year, we didn’t end like we expected to and really have thought all year about that loss to Viera,” said O’Neal, who will play collegiately at Ohio State. “It really stuck with us. We still have the newspaper from that game in every single locker. Now we’re really excited about getting back to the state final and would like to finish it off with another championship.”
▪ Class 3A state semifinal — Merritt Island 2, American Heritage 0: For the past four years, members of the Plantation American Heritage girls’ soccer team had finished the season with tears of joy. But on Friday night, it turned out to be tears of sadness as Patriot players consoled each other after being consoled by coach Cindy Marcial.
They watched as Merritt Island, a team they had frustrated many times during their run of four consecutive state championships, celebrated following the Mustangs’ upset of the Patriots at Heritage Field.
Heritage was looking to become only the fourth team in state history to win at least five consecutive state titles. The Patriots would have joined St. Thomas Aquinas (1993-99), Douglas (2003-07) and Orange Park St. Johns Country Day (2012-present).
Merritt Island (21-1-3) put Heritage behind the eight-ball early when Kelly Lindquist got to a loose ball in front of the net and popped it in just 15 minutes into the game. The Mustangs then spent the remainder of the first half and all of the second playing smart defensive soccer, frustrating Heritage and clearing balls out.
“I guess it wasn’t going to go forever and eventually someone was going to break it,” Marcial said. “I don’t care, I’m still so proud of these girls. To win four straight state titles is incredibly difficult, and I just told them after the game to remember this feeling right now and let it be the means to motivate them to get back and finish it off next year.”
Heritage had its best chance to tie the match with 18 minutes left when MI keeper Jordan Tomberlin made her only mistake of the night, misjudging a high, bouncing ball that went over her head and bounced toward the net. But the ball missed the left post by inches. Three minutes later, Heritage’s pressing offense left the defense vulnerable, and MI’s Lexy Denaburg knocked one home off a two-on-one break to clinch it.
“It really is a strange feeling,” said junior Jeanel Leon, one of only two players on the field Friday night who had enjoyed all four state titles, having been on the team since seventh grade. “I have felt so fortunate to finish every year with a championship, so this really hurts right now. I have one more year here and want to remember how this feels to help motivate us all to get back next year and finish it like we did the last four years.”
▪ Class 5A state semifinal — Boca Raton 3, Lourdes 0: In a matchup between programs that have gotten close but have yet to win a state title, Boca Raton (25-0) prevailed in a one-sided game at Columbus.
Juniors Kendra Cashion and Dayana Martin each had a goal and an assist for Boca, which will be making its third trip to a state final.
Lourdes, which made it to the state final last season and also in 2013, losing both times to Oviedo, finished its season 20-3-1. Lourdes had not allowed a goal in its previous three playoff games.
The game was scoreless until 2:16 remained in the first half. That’s when sophomore Gabi Santos sent a perfect pass to Cashion, who was in alone on Lourdes goalie Amanda Puig, beating her for her 34th goal of the season.
Boca made it 2-0 with 28:10 left in the second half, as Martin scored her 39th goal of the season. Cashion earned the assist. The final goal came on a header by Savanna LaPorte off a stellar crossing pass by Martin.
Ali Ward was Boca’s goalie for the first half, and Jane Nordhagen completed the shutout.
▪ Class 1A state semifinal — Lakeland Christian 4, Palmer Trinity 1: After trailing by a goal in the 35th minute, Lakeland Christian scored four goals to pull away from host Palmer Trinity (15-3-1).
“We just ran out of steam,” Palmer Trinity coach Philip Gentles said. “We have been dealing with injuries, played a really good team today, and it caught up with us.”
Paula Gutierrez scored her first goal of the season when she found a loose ball in front of the goal to put Palmer Trinity up 1-0 in the 35th minute. The goal was the first allowed by Lakeland after no goals or penalty kicks were scored on the Vikings (19-4-2) during the regional rounds.
Lakeland tied the match on a free-kick goal by eighth-grader Jayden Bayes in the 38th minute to send the game into halftime tied at 1-1. Eden Guynn scored the second and fourth goals for Lakeland, and Mary Peace added the third goal in the second half.