Spartans 12th soccer championship forthcoming

By Mike Zima Correspondent
Posted 2/23/23

ORANGE PARK - St. Johns Country Day School sophomore forward Sophia Pontieri scored two goals and had one assist, leading St. Johns Country Day to an 8-0 dismantling of visiting Miami True North …

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Spartans 12th soccer championship forthcoming


ORANGE PARK - St. Johns Country Day School sophomore forward Sophia Pontieri scored two goals and had one assist, leading St. Johns Country Day to an 8-0 dismantling of visiting Miami True North Classical Academy in a Class 2A state semifinal on February 17.

The Spartans, ranked first in Florida’s Class 2A by, will try to capture their 12th consecutive state championship on February 22 when they take on No. 2 Lakeland Christian (20-2-2) at Spec Martin Stadium in DeLand.

SJCD head coach Mike Pickett decided to insert Pontieri into the starting lineup the night before the game because she had improved defensively over the course of the season.

“Her job tonight was to close the [Titans] first pass,” said Pickett. “Her movement in defending put her in good spots for offense.”

Pontieri got the hosts off to a hot start, scoring the Spartans first two goals and assisting on their third. Five and one half minutes into the contest, the sophomore rose to head a cross from Sofia Avila past True North keeper Gabriela Scott for the game’s first goal. Two minutes later, Sydney Schmidt sent a pass from the high left wing in front of Pontieri, who was streaking down the left side of the box. Scott charged out to grab the ball, but Pontieri slid and was able to get just enough of her left instep on the ball before colliding with Scott to direct a slow roller into the unattended goal.

“The Schmidt-to-Sophia cross there was very high-level,” said Pickett. “Movements like that in the final third of the field are like you might see in a college or professional game.”

At the 30:27 mark, Pontieri booted a centering pass from 40 yards out into the box, where senior Avery Raimondo timed a kick perfectly and sent a bullet to the upper right corner of the goal. At that point, SJCD led 3-0, and the Titans had not gotten a shot on goal yet.

The Spartans were aggressive from the outset, placing 10 players in formation on the offensive side of the field. True North, which entered the game with a 14-3 record and was ranked fourth in Florida’s Class 2A by, was clearly more organized and better skilled than SJCD’s previous five playoff opponents, but they were not prepared for the Spartans pace of play.

“They (True North) are a good team that likes to possess the ball,” explained Pickett. “But they were going to have to make three passes to get the ball past midfield, and we were really good at pressing them and turning the ball over.”

Pickett credited the differences in strength of schedule between the two teams for the Titans’ inability to cope with the speed of the game.

“That is why we play such a difficult schedule,” he said. “Iron sharpens iron.” The eight SJCD goals were scored by seven different players, a testament to the Spartans’ depth. Schmidt, Lauryn Mateo, Alixandria Fletcher and freshman Calli Berrang scored between the 22:37 mark and the 8:52 mark to send SJCD to the intermission with a 7-0 lead. The Spartans outshot True North 22-1 and had a 7-0 edge in corner kicks in the first half.

“We have six or seven players who have more than 10 goals,” said Pickett of the Spartans depth. “I have got eighth graders who have played in every game this year, and that’s how they learn how to compete against bigger, stronger girls.”

Center back Cece Nowicki ended the game at the 29 minute mark of the second half by freeing herself from a scrum deep inside the box and kicking in a rebound of a shot that had pinballed off of several players

SJCD (20-1-1) has won each of their six playoff games 8-0 and have not allowed a goal in their last 10 games, but will have their hands full with Lakeland Christian. The Vikings are the two-time defending Class 3A Florida state champions, and defeated Montverde the only team to beat SJCD this season 2-1 on January 10.

“We are going to try to play on our front foot and play our style,” Pickett said of the final. “We are going to go hunt. We are not going to be the hunted.”


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