Bodi’s clutch saves clinch district soccer title for Hawks

Viera beats Melbourne on penalty kicks


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Viera High's Cassie Bodi makes the game-winning save as the Hawks defeat the Melbourne Bulldogs on penalty kicks (3-2) to win the Class 4A, District 6 championship Thursday night at Hawk Stadium

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

Watching the ball bounce harmlessly away told Cassie Bodi she was right.

Hearing the official’s whistle moments later, well, that told the Viera High goalkeeper she and her teammates were something else:

District champs.

In a game that was scoreless after regulation and two overtime periods, Bodi’s diving save secured a 3-2 penalty kick shootout victory for the Hawks and earned Viera the Class 4A, District 6 championship Thursday night at Hawk Stadium.

“I didn’t know how many more (shots) I needed to save, I was just thinking I needed to save the next one,” Bodi said. “… I honestly didn’t know we’d won after that. I was confused. I just knew I saved it.

“When they blew the whistle, it was the best feeling.”

The victory means Viera (16-1-2) will host either Windermere or Montverde Academy in Tuesday night’s Class 4A regional quarterfinal.

Windermere and Montverde will play for the District 5 championship Friday night. The winner will host Melbourne, the loser will get the Hawks.

“We finally deserved to win one on penalties,” a happy Viera coach Cal Dixon said. “We’ve been practicing all season. After last year, where we lost to Melbourne (in the district final) on penalties and we lost to Montverde (in the regional quarters), we’ve been practicing them a lot and I think it paid off.

“Cassie was unreal. … Cassie came up massive for us.”

Carolina Santos, Kylie Pulliam and Mya Norton all converted their penalty kick attempts for Viera.

One Melbourne shot hit off the post, while Bodi was able to save two other PK attempts -- both against players who have been her teammate in club soccer for a number of years.

While that familiarity certainly helped, Bodi said it was the constant work the Hawks have done in practice that helped her prepare for what she faced Thursday night.

“I’ve just gotten progressively better at reading people,” the Viera senior said. “There are certain cues I can see. It’s guessing, but I kind of know where they’re going, not because I know them, but because I read their body language. It just happened to work out.”

Thursday’s game marked the 10th straight season Viera and Melbourne have played for the district title and the fourth time in that span that the Hawks have come out on top.

And if there was one thing virtually all 10 games have had in common, it’s that it was an intense, back-and-forth kind of game that could have gone either way.

Viera dominated possession much of the first half, playing with the wind at its back, while the second half saw the Bulldogs more in control. But through it all, Melbourne goalkeeper Jessica Newton and Viera’s Bodi – with help from teammates like Pulliam, Victoria Rosario, Savannah Oxley, Serena Zarzano and freshmen Mai Jensen and Lauren Mieczkowski – were able to come up big when they had to.

The Hawks, led by Allie Worley, Norton, Taylor Collins, Madelyn Rosario, Piper Henry and Caroline Boston pushed the action in both 10-minute overtime periods, but again the scoreboard read 0-0.

Viera went first to start the PK shootout and Santos, a senior, started it off with a goal to put the Hawks up 1-0. After Bodi made her first save, it was Pulliam – also a senior – who put the Hawks up 2-0.

Melbourne would eventually tie it up before another Viera senior, Norton, converted to put the Hawks up 3-2.

Both teams would miss their next opportunities, which meant Bodi could clinch the win for Viera if she could figure out where Melbourne’s next shooter – her club teammate – was going.

“Certain people look to the other side to try to mess with your head,” Bodi said. “They’ll look left and then they’ll go right. It’s also (about) your hips. I don’t really remember what her (cues) were.

“I just knew she was going right, and I knew she had a hard kick because I’ve played with her forever. I know how to get my bottom hand down, and that’s what I did.”

And once that whistle blew, Bodi came running out of the goal where she was engulfed by her teammates in celebration.

It may have been a little hard to breathe for a few moments there, but then again, that’s just the kind of moment players dream about.

“A couple of years ago, I did the same thing when I was younger and I just wanted that feeling back before high school season ended,” Bodi said. “Getting that was just awesome. And getting at least one championship under my belt my senior year was amazing.”

Indeed, for Viera seniors like Bodi, Pulliam, Victoria Rosario, Norton, Santos, Amanda Zaroogian, Hanna Vega and Abigail Rolling, Thursday night was special. The Hawks not only avenged their only loss of the season, but also brought home their first district title since 2016 – the year the Hawks won their second straight state championship.

And who knows, there’s still a chance Viera could see Melbourne (12-3-2) in the regional semifinals, though defending state champ Montverde Academy (17-0) – ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 2 in the nation by MaxPreps – will certainly be a tough obstacle to overcome,

But all that matters for the Hawks right now is knowing that they had a big challenge facing them Thursday night, and they’ve got the hardware to show they conquered it.

Dixon said he told the Hawks before the game they simply needed to play like they had been all season, especially against high-quality teams like Jacksonville Bolles and Cardinal Gibbons, in order to get by the Bulldogs, who have traditionally given them fits.

“I literally said to them … let’s just play like we’ve been playing all year,” Dixon said. “And this time, they did. I was really pleased with how we played. I thought we deserved it.”