Hawks draw first blood in rivalry with Melbourne

Goals by Bryant, Santos and Norton give Viera 3-1 win


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Viera's JJ Bryant (center) celebrates with her teammates after scoring the first goal in Friday night's 3-1 victory over Melbourne

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

It was there for all to see Friday night at Melbourne High School.

The Viera High girls soccer team showed, in case anyone forgot, that it has plenty of firepower and depth.

The Hawks also showed they’ve got plenty of heart.

But what was perhaps the most impressive part about the Hawks’ 3-1 win over the Bulldogs in a key Class 4A District game Friday night is that the mantra the players used while winning two of the past three state championships still holds true:

They’ve got each other’s backs.

 “I think this team has so much potential,” senior Brooke Walsh said. “This is nothing compared to what it can be. We all had each other’s backs today, and it really showed on the field.”

That was never more evident than in the first half when Viera goalkeeper Cassie Bodi ranged far outside the box only to have Melbourne nearly get the ball by her and into the goal.

Instead, the Hawks got big plays from Victoria Rosario, Bodi and Hannah Howe to prevent it from happening. Bodi hustled back toward the goal to make a save, and Howe stopped another Melbourne chance by knocking the ball away at the last possible minute.

“It just showed that when one thing went wrong, we still had each other’s backs,” Walsh said

After a scoreless first half, the Hawks (9-0) opened the scoring in the 44th minute when Walsh fed the ball over the top of the Melbourne defense to senior JJ Bryant, who put it home to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.

Melbourne would tie the game up less than three minutes later, but once again, Viera was up to the task.

Once again, Walsh was able to get the ball over the Bulldogs’ defense and this time it was Viera junior Carolina Santos who would find the back of the net to put the Hawks up 2-1.

The clincher would come off a set play as Santos delivered a corner kick perfectly into the box where another Viera junior, Mya Norton, was waiting to score the goal.

“I think we can still play better, but this was a real physical fight and what I was really proud of the girls is that they had each other’s back,” Viera coach Cal Dixon said. “We like to talk about that before the game and we like to talk about it after the game. I really felt like they had each other’s backs today. They fought for each other.

“We know we can play better in terms of possession, in terms of keeping the ball. But if we can fight like that in every game, then we’re going to be in for a chance regardless.”

Senior Emily Bodi said she thought the Hawks started off a “little rocky, but then we got our groove and we brought it down and played. Like Cal mentioned to us, we all fought.

“It wasn’t our best game, but we left it all out there on the field and played for each other. That’s what really won the game – the heart and the depth.”

Indeed, the Hawks also got big performances from Kylie Pulliam, Hanna Vega, Mollie Roe, Taylor Collins, Madelyn Rosario and Abigail Rolling to help secure the victory.

But as big as the win was for Viera, the Hawks know they will likely see the Bulldogs at least once – and possibly twice – more before the season is over.

The two teams will likely meet in the district title game and could very well face off one more time in the regional semifinals. That was the case last season, with Melbourne coming out on top in all three games.

So while the Hawks can certainly take confidence from Friday’s win, they also know full well they haven’t seen the last of the Bulldogs.

“It humbles us because we know we’ve been that other team before with Melbourne where we’ve lost and then had to go and play them again,” Walsh said. “(The win) gives you confidence, but you can’t let it get to your head because (next time) they’re going to want it just as bad. They’re not going to underestimate us now.”

That’s part of the beauty of this rivalry between two of Brevard County’s top girls soccer programs – once is never enough.

To get where they want to go, one team is going to have to go through the other and the stakes will just keep getting higher every time they meet.

This was just the first round. But so far, advantage Hawks.

“I told the girls after the game this is a really big win, but it’s a small chapter in what we’re trying to achieve,” Dixon said. “In the long run, we’ve got to face them at least two more times and we’ve got to try to do that again. It’s going to be a tough game.

“We’re really proud of them. It’s a really good win. But I want us to keep our feet on the ground and understand that we’ve got to play them two more times. We’re ready for that now. Really pleased with it. Really proud.”