DELAND - With barely enough time to work up a sweat, the St. Johns Country Day School girls soccer team bolted to a 2-0 lead within the first 90 seconds of play in their Class 2A championship game …
DELAND - With barely enough time to work up a sweat, the St. Johns Country Day School girls soccer team bolted to a 2-0 lead within the first 90 seconds of play in their Class 2A championship game against Canterbury High en route to a 6-0 final score. The title was the 10th in a row for the Lady Spartans and for coach Mike Pickett. Pickett now has 13 state titles.
“This season will always have an asterisk next to it because of all the adversity we went through to get here,” said Pickett. “We missed a good part of the season; a bunch of quality games and finished with just 13 regular season games. It is a testament to the 10 seniors on the team.”
In the ensuing Class 2A boys championship game, Canterbury returned the favor with a 4-0 win over St. Johns with the first half locked at 0-0.
With senior forward Paige Crews taking the opening kickoff and three Spartan midfielders; Mia Sadler, Bella Pontieri and Lauren Weiss, dashing down the sideline toward the Canterbury goal, St. Johns took just 15 seconds for Pontieri to spin left and loft a left-footed shot toward the front of the goal where Sadler finished off the play with a header to the net as the Canterbury stood stunned by the absolute speed of the ball from the 50 to the net.
“Their job (Sadler, Pontieri and Weiss) is to just run like nobody is on the field in front of them; don’t look at the other players, don’t look at the other team,” said Pickett. “The goal is to kick it as far into the corner as we could, one, because we knew their right defender had a shorter throw-in than the left one, and, two, or get a ball kicked back upfield from the defense. For us, the second wave is there to collect the second ball if they head it back. The 15 second goal was shocking because that play has not worked well for us this year.”
Pickett noted that the play’s intention is to kick it deep out of bounds to the corner to set up the potential short throw-in by Canterbury.
“Bella tracked down a great ball from Hannah (Lemieux), beat three people and hit Mia,” said Pickett. “Mia absolutely annihilated that shot for the goal. I think that goal shocked the Canterbury team.”
Canterbury would get the ensuing kickoff and drill a ball to the top of the 18 yard box to St. Johns goalie Alexis Agromonte.
Agromonte started the return formation for the Lady Spartans with Maddy Moody getting a throw-in from about the Canterbury 40 yard line. Moody attempted a loft over the Canterbury defense, but the throw was short and booted out of bounds about 20 yards closer.
“Don’t let Maddy get closer,” said Pickett.
On her second throw-in of the offensive thrust, Moody found Lauren Mateo on the corner of the goalie box just a foot or so behind the Canterbury defender for a backward-targeted header that Crews pounded in, also with a header, just 75 seconds later; 90 seconds into the game.
“Lauren Mateo has been doing that; flicking, since sixth grade and is probably the best at it since Tyler Law,” said Pickett. “The goalie is in a very difficult position because she has to protect the front side of the goal. Paige had noone standing near her when she hit the ball; it was wide open.”
Ready for goal three? Wait about 25 minutes.
“The two quick goals crippled them,” said Pickett. “I told them at one point in the season to quit serving the ball in the air because we are not getting them. That’s funny that we had three header goals.” Ooops! Third goal hint.
Canterbury would try to establish some forward offensive motion with deep lobs into the Spartan zone, but Moody, Pontieri and Weiss split the 50 into three zones and kept pressure on the Canterbury offense about 10 yards inside the midfield stripe.
“We were playing a 3-2-3-1 to cover their Perez girl, the 42 goal scorer,” said Pickett. “We didn’t want to mark her with one player, but surround her and keep the ball moving.”
With 28 minutes left to the half, with Julia Boaventura penetrating the Canterbury defensive edge, St. Johns kept the ball inside the 50 for numerous plays inside the 18 yard line, but a strike from about 45 yards out from Hannah Lemieux got Boaventura deep, but unable to catch up to the ball giving Canterbury a throw-in deep in their own territory.
With Crews, Weiss and Lemieux triple teaming the throw, Lemieux launched a ball deep that caught Sadler just outside the goal box. Sadler twisted, found Boaventura in stride, but the blast went up and off right.
Just seconds after Canterbury goalie Aiden Smith punched the ball down the sideline, another triple team defensive formation got the ball bouncing around and setting up Moody with a throw-in from the opposite side of the field from her first goal-scoring throw.
Moody picked up the ball near midfield, but was instructed by officials to move up the sideline where she gained another 10-15 yards before again finding Mateo on the goal box stripe with a header into the grass in front of the goal. Sadler, this time, got a head on the ball and rifled in goal three.
The 3-0 score stood to the half.
“I told them to not let up because 3-1 is doable with a team like this,” said Pickett, noting his halftime directive. “I’ve seen a two goal lead evaporate very quickly and especially with a team that can score like them.”
At the very start of the second half, again, Moody nearly got a third assist with a throw-in to goalie Smith that Mateo arrived almost simultaneously.
With three minutes off the clock, Pontieri and Lemieux forced a turnover to Pontieri just above the 18 yard box where she used some deft footwork to keep the ball in play and find Boaventura on a slash in from midfield. Boaventura captured the ball in stride, tapped it right to avoid a defender and the referee and launched her shot as Smith was attacking out of the goal to put St. Johns up 4-0.
“Any time, as a coach, you don’t want to give up goals in the first five minutes of the game and the last five minutes of the half,” said Pickett. “The mental side of that is crushing.”
After Mateo got knocked to the turf, Pontieri made it 5-0 off a free kick play just off the 18 yard line that found Lemieux bending off the free kick and a service pass in front of the goal that got rejected out, but to the foot of Crews. Crews quickly fired in to Moody all alone in front of Smith. Moody crushed the ball, but Smith deflected it out back to the top of the box where Pontieri captured, took one step around a defender and launched the goal shot.
With 24:19 left in the game, Moody made good on a second shot on goal off a corner kick from Kamryn Towers that first hit Crews who’s tap hit a defender in front of Moody who captured the errant ball and smashed it for the final goal of the contest.
The corner kick came by way of a free kick for St. Johns off an aggressive play on Pontieri by Canterbury’s defense. Lemieux fed Weiss on a sprint toward the baseline stripe where Weiss pounded her service shot off Canterbury to get the corner kick.