It wasn’t just a win for Viera, it was a win for ‘family’
Hawks beat rival Melbourne 2-1 to win second straight district title
Viera High players celebrate after beating Melbourne 2-1 to claim their second-straight district championship.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
As Viera High senior midfielder Madelyn Rosario said after Friday night’s Class 6A, District 12 girls soccer district championship game:
“It’s just fun to get the result that you want.”
Oh yeah, it was a fun night, all right.
Junior Allie Worley and freshman Taylor George each scored a goal in the first half and the Hawks held off a late comeback try by their arch rivals, the Melbourne Bulldogs, to win the district championship 2-1 at Hawk Stadium.
It was the second straight district title for Viera (16-1-2), which is expected to get the No. 1 seed in Region 3 when the FHSAA announces its playoff pairings Sunday night.
“I thought we were fantastic today,” Viera coach Cal Dixon said. “We executed our game plan, which was to stay composed. I asked them to keep their emotions in check the whole game because it can get emotional against Melbourne.
“We did that and I don’t think they really had an answer. I think their answer was to hit it long. We were winning everything. We controlled possession. We controlled most of the ball, and we scored two really good goals.
“The only thing I said to the girls is that we made it too exciting at the end there. It never should have been that.”
Actually, it’s kind of hard not to have a Viera-Melbourne game be exciting.
The two teams have met in the district final for 11 straight years, with Melbourne holding a 6-5 overall edge, but the last two titles going to the Hawks. The teams have combined to win five state championships during the previous 10 seasons and have met in the regional semifinals six different times. A seventh meeting in the regional playoffs is hardly out of the question.
“It’s always an absolute battle when we play against Mel,” Viera senior goalkeeper Jordan Spira said. “With having so many club girls on the same team … we’ve got some crazy girls. We’ve got some ultra-competitive girls. That’s just how they are. That’s just how they play.
“It’s always neck-and-neck. That’s what makes it even more exciting when one team does prevail.”
Spira, who has been playing the first half of games before giving way to junior Megan Cook, praised the play of Viera’s defense which did a good job of shutting down Melbourne’s attack.
“This is the first season for Caroline Boston playing as a defender instead of as a midfielder,” Spira said. “They’ve really put their heart and soul into it, just grinding it out every single practice, learning the tactics, getting that muscle memory.
“That’s what’s really important for them. They’ve been doing a fantastic job this season. It’s been a really solid back line this year. I couldn’t be more proud of the way they’re playing.”
Offensively, the Hawks got on the board when Piper McHenry delivered the ball to Worley, who beat a Melbourne defender and drilled a shot into the lower left corner of the net in the game’s 24th minute.
It was the ninth goal in the last three games for Worley, who is now third on the team with 14 goals on the season.
Four minutes later, it was George, who pounced on a ball that was right next to two Bulldog defenders and put it in the back of the net for her 15th goal of the season, which ties her with Talorie Crafton for the team lead. Her eight assists rank second on the team, two behind Rosario.
“For my age, considering the fact that I’m only a freshman, it’s really amazing to score in a district final,” George said. “Being one of the only two to score is really just mind-blowing for me.”
You wouldn’t know it from watching her play now, but there was a time when George wasn’t even sure she would make Viera’s varsity team. In fact, she asked Spira before this year’s tryouts if she thought she would even make the JV team.
“I was so frantic, I thought I wasn’t going to make either team,” George said. “I was really not confident in myself. But I’ve learned to become better.
“My confidence has definitely grown. I’ve kept the mindset of, ‘got to work harder, got to work harder.’ Even if I don’t play in any games, I’m going to work harder and prove that if they need me, I’ll be ready.”
Dixon, who praised George’s work ethic, said the freshman been “unbelievable” all season since earning herself a spot in the lineup with her strong play in practice and in games.
“She’s been a starter for a long time now,” Dixon said. “She’s one of the highest scorers on the team and she deserves it. … It’s good for the team, and it’s really good for her, too.”
With Viera in command and leading 2-0, things got a little interesting in the last four minutes when the Bulldogs (12-5-3) were awarded a penalty kick and converted.
The goal seemed to give Melbourne new life as it pushed hard to get the game-tying score. However, the Hawks were able to get the ball back and controlled it enough to let the clock run out.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Spira said.
And so, what is always an intense rivalry game turned out to be quite a special night for Viera High seniors like Rosario; Spira; Taylor Collins, Johanna Webb and an injured Catherine Koegel.
But it was also big for juniors Worley; McHenry; Cook; Boston; Crafton; Savannah Oxley; Serena Zarzana; Reese Pulliam; Amanda Vitaliano and Ariana Valentin. The same goes for sophomores Mai Jensen; Morgan Brubaker, Victoria Whener and Lauren Mieczkowski. And for freshmen George, Kaley Vitaliano and Alexandra Rowe, it’s just the beginning.
“Obviously, I’m real emotional about it,” George said. “It’s my first districts and winning districts – and scoring in districts – it’s really awesome.”
Yes. Yes, it was.
“It’s my last year playing and I’m really happy that we could defend the title,” Rosario said. “I love that. It’s not just soccer to us.