Late mistakes cost Hawks in state semifinal loss
Viera High senior Taylor Collins (No. 3) battles for the ball during Friday's Class 6A state semifinal. The Hawks led twice in this one, but it was Lourdes Academy that came away with a 4-2 overtime victory at Belen Jesuit Prep in Miami.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
MIAMI – They accomplished so much this season … and hopefully, one day, they will be able to appreciate the success they all had together.
But there’s no doubt the members of the Viera High girls soccer team woke up a little brokenhearted Saturday morning.
Unable to hold leads of 1-0 and 2-1, the Hawks lost Friday night’s Class 6A state semifinal to Lourdes Academy, 4-2 in overtime at Belen Jesuit Prep in Miami.
Allie Worley scored on a penalty kick with just over 31 minutes left in regulation and Talorie Crafton answered Lourdes’ game-tying goal with one of her own with 7:02 remaining for the Hawks.
But two costly mistakes by Viera allowed Lourdes to first tie the game up in regulation, then take a 3-2 lead with 6:17 remaining in the second overtime. Lourdes would add another goal a few minutes later, finally converting on the last of three consecutive corner kicks.
Lourdes will move on to play Venice in the state championship game.
Viera ends its season with a record of 19-2-2.
“I thought we fought as hard as we could,” Viera coach Cal Dixon said. “It was give-and-take both ways. In the first half, I thought we kind of (dominated) them for 20 minutes and they gave it straight back to us for the next 20 minutes.
“The second half was pretty similar. There was a lot of back and forth. We gave everything we had and so did they. They got a little bit lucky for their second goal and they went on to win the game. It could have been either one of us, to be honest.”
The game was played in very windy conditions that certainly impacted the flight of the ball, particularly on goal kicks. Whether it was the wind, or perhaps nerves, some Hawks made some uncharacteristic mistakes … not controlling the ball, missing kicks or sometimes waiting for the ball to come to them, which allowed Lourdes to steal possession.
There were mistakes made by Lourdes, too, but it certainly didn’t stop both teams from putting on a highly competitive and entertaining game.
Viera got the first goal after Lourdes’ Sophie Perez was called for a handball in the box on a ball kicked by Viera’s Johanna Webb. Worley took the penalty kick and delivered to put the Hawks up 1-0 with 31:33 to play in regulation.
That lead would hold up until just over eight minutes left in regulation when Lourdes got the equalizer.
A minute later, however, the Hawks took the momentum back after a foul was called just outside the box. Webb took the free kick and the ball hit off the crossbar and bounced toward Crafton, who scored to give the Hawks back the lead with 7:02 remaining.
However, Lourdes would answer again when Viera couldn’t secure the ball just outside the goal and the Bobcats were able to tie the game again.
After one scoreless overtime period, Lourdes got what would be the game-winning goal on a stolen pass down the left side that the Bobcats were able to take in and convert.
As much as they tried, the Hawks couldn’t get the tying goal and Lourdes would eventually put in another goal that would effectively end Viera’s season.
This year’s Hawks were just the third team in program history to make it to the final four.
Viera won the Cape Coast Conference, District 12 and Region 3 titles. That’s quite an accomplishment.
“(I told them) how proud I was of them for the entire season,” Dixon said. “We had five fantastic seniors this year and I told them how good of a squad we’ve got coming back next year.
“I think every year I’ve been here so far we’ve slightly improved. We made the regional quarterfinal, the regional semifinal and now we’ve gone all the way to the semifinal of the state. Let’s get to the final next year.”
Friday marked the final game for Viera seniors Jordan Spira, Madelyn Rosario, Taylor Collins, Webb and Catherine Koegel, who missed the last half of the season with a knee injury.
“Unbelievable,” Dixon said of his seniors. “Every year I’ve been here, the seniors have taken the program that much further. They talk about leaving the program in a good place when they leave, and they’ve done that.
“They got us back to the state semifinal. We have leaders, we have captains in that group. I’m super proud of them. You could see how much it meant to them at the end and how upset they were because they’ve given a lot to the program and they’ve given a lot this season. I’m proud of them for that.”
Viera will certainly have some talent coming back next year with a roster that includes Worley; Crafton; Savannah Oxley; Taylor George; Caroline Boston; Mai Jensen; Piper McHenry; Serena Zarzana; Morgan Brubaker; Lauren Mieczkowski; Reese Pulliam; Kaley Vitaliano; Victoria Whener; Megan Cook; Amanda Vitaliano; Ariana Valentin and Alexandra Rowe.
That group will no doubt use Friday’s loss as fuel for next season.
“I hope so,” Dixon said. “It’s great for them to get here in the first place. Maybe there were a few nerves there. Next time, that’s not going to be the case. If we get back here, they’re going to have done it. They’re going to expect this type of game.
“We talked about it at the end that we want them to win it for the seniors next time around. We’ve improved every year. Hopefully, next year, we’ll be here. The only step we can go further is the state final.
“Hopefully, we can do it and finally get a state title back here.”