Hawks say goodbye to eight seniors after regional semi loss to Montverde Academy
Dixon says seniors ‘have been nothing short of great for us’
Members of the Viera High girls soccer team gather together one last time after their 2-0 loss to Montverde Academy in the Class 4A state semifinals.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotal
It wasn’t so much the loss as it was the finality of it all.
The Viera High girls soccer team gave it everything it had against a Montverde Academy team ranked among the best in the nation, but ultimately lost its Class 4A region soccer semifinal 2-0 at Hawk Stadium Friday night.
There was no shame in that. None at all.
In fact, that was probably not what hurt most for Viera’s eight seniors. Because the loss wasn’t just the end of a season. It was the end of their high school careers.
“When I was talking off my cleats and my shin guards for the last time, it was like … (dang), last time being on this field with these people after a game,” senior goalkeeper Cassie Bodi said. “I’m upset we lost, but we gave it our all, so I’m not really mad that we lost. It still hasn’t hit me that it’s over. We don’t have practice.
“I still have a couple of club games left, but it’s different. I love club. I love those players, (but) it’s not the same. I like high school, playing under the lights with these people. I love it. I’m going to miss it.”
Montverde (20-0), ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 4 in the nation in the latest MaxPreps rankings, certainly looked like a team ready to defend its state championship.
The Eagles were led by junior Jody Brown, who is a member of the Jamaican National Team. As much as the Hawks tried to mark her at all times, Montverde’s aggressive tactics – which included pushing its fullbacks forward -- had Viera playing in more of a defensive posture and eventually, Brown was able to score with less than 10 minutes to go in the first half.
“Coming in, we knew how good they are,” Viera coach Cal Dixon said. “They’ve got international players … that’s tough to compete with. I think we battled extremely hard in the first half, but we defended more than I wanted to.
“We got too deep and we allowed them to just pressure and pressure and pressure. We worked our (tails) off to stop it, and I’m really proud of them for that.”
Viera, which scored twice at Montverde only to lose on penalty kicks in last year’s playoffs, came out with a more offensive-minded style in the second half, but could not crack the Eagles defense this time around.
“I literally said I would rather go for it and lose 5-0 than lose 1-0 and defend all game,” Dixon said. “We changed to a 4-3-3 (formation), we went for it, and we created chances in the second half.
“We gave them a game. They at least know that they’ve been in a game, which is what we wanted to do. But it’s exceptionally hard to compete against the talent that they have. I think we did compete, it’s just difficult.”
Friday night marked the final game for Viera seniors Bodi; Kylie Pulliam; Hanna Vega; Amanda Zaroogian; Victoria Rosario; Abigail Rolling; Mya Norton and Carolina Santos.
It also marked the last time playing together for sisters Kylie and Reese Pulliam and Victoria and Madelyn Rosario, as well as for best friends like Bodi and Vega, who have been playing together for seven years.
“High school season is the best time of high school for me,” Bodi said. “All the girls, all the practices every single day … getting closer to them, especially this season.”
While the Hawks will lose eight very valuable players from their roster, they still had a number of underclassmen who either took part in Friday night’s game, or will be ready to take on bigger roles for Viera in the future.
That group includes Allie Worley; Madelyn Rosario; Lauren Mieczkowski, Savannah Oxley; Serena Zarzana; Mai Jensen; Taylor Collins; Piper McHenry; Caroline Boston; Jordan Spira; Catherine Koegel; Johanna Webb; Reese Pulliam; Amanda Vitaliano; Ariana Valentin and Megan Cook.
But make no mistake, this year’s group of seniors had a big impact on the Viera High program.
“I told the seniors how proud I am of them for (what they did) the two years before I got here and what they’ve achieved in the two years they’ve had with me,” Dixon said. “They’ve been nothing short of great for us.
“We’ve got a good future, too. We’ve got nine sophomores on the team and we’ll have a good senior class next year. The future’s bright.”
As for this season, the Hawks have a lot to be proud of, too.
Not only did they win the district championship, but they played well during ties against Class 2A regional finalists Jacksonville Bolles (ranked 6th in the state and No. 16 in the nation) and Cardinal Gibbons (ranked 13th in the state and No. 38 nationally).
“I’m exceptionally proud of them,” Dixon said. “I got them in a huddle at the end and told them how proud I am of the season, not just tonight. We improved on what we did last year. We had a ridiculously hard schedule, and before this game we were 17-1-2. District champions.
“I couldn’t really ask any more of them, other than trying to win this game. And they did that. They tried to win the game. They gave it everything they had. We just came up against a better opponent.
“It’s nice to know that we lost the game to a better team as opposed to we didn’t play very well tonight, and that’s why we lost. I thought we gave it everything we had.”