Next stop … final four!
Viera beats St. Cloud 2-1 in regional final
Members of the Viera High girls soccer team pose with the Class 6A, Region 3 championship trophy after defeating St. Cloud 2-1 Tuesday night. Viera is in the state final four for the third time in program history.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
There was a celebration, of course.
Players jumped into each other’s arms, made a big dog pile and held up index fingers to show they’re No. 1. And the smiles were electric.
But somewhere in the midst of all the craziness that came in the moments after the Viera High girls soccer team defeated the visiting St. Cloud Bulldogs 2-1 in the Class 6A, Region 3 final Tuesday night, there was also this:
Clinching a spot in the state final four was a huge accomplishment. But the Hawks have bigger aspirations.
“We have a goal, and until we get that goal, it’s just like another win,” senior Madelyn Rosario said. “It feels weird to me. I feel like I should be more excited. But I just feel like we have more to go.”
Viera (19-1-2) will be going to Miami on Friday night to play Lourdes Academy (16-2-1) in the Class 6A state semifinal. The game will be played at Belen Jesuit Prep at 4 p.m.
The other semifinal will be played later that night as Creekside (14-5-1) will be on the road against Venice (14-3-2) at 7.
It will be the third state semifinal in program history for the Hawks, who won Class 4A state championships in 2015 and 2016 with the ’16 team ending the season ranked No. 1 in the country by Top Drawer Soccer.
“It’s really exciting because we haven’t had this opportunity all four years (that I’ve been here),” Viera senior Taylor Collins said. “I’m really excited because I do feel like we can get to states this year and win.”
In order to get there, the Hawks needed to take out a St. Cloud team that was ranked No. 3 in the region and had defeated Viera’s arch rival – Melbourne – in the semifinals.
“It was very similar to (our semifinal win against) Harmony,” Viera coach Cal Dixon said. “It was comfortable and tight at the same time. The way that St. Cloud plays is very direct. It’s very long. We knew that coming in and we knew we had to deal with that.
“The way they play, it’s always a danger that they could get in on one mistake, or one long ball. That’s why it becomes a tight game.”
Viera took a 1-0 lead in the first half on a goal by Piper McHenry off an assist by Mai Jensen. McHenry now has two goals and an assist in the past three games.
Collins made it 2-0 in the second half after getting a pass from Savannah Oxley and drilling the ball off a St. Cloud defender and into the goal.
“I think I did pretty good,” Collins said. “Obviously, there were balls I could have finished. I’m glad I got one off at least, so that’s cool.”
With Viera leading comfortably, St. Cloud made things interesting by scoring with just under 11 minutes to play. The Bulldogs (15-7-3) would put more pressure on the Hawks in the closing minutes, but each time, Viera goalkeeper Megan Cook – who took over for Jordan Spira in the second half as she has done all season – came up with the save.
“The last quarter was really hectic,” Collins said. “No one really knew what to expect after that goal, so it was really crazy.”
But the Hawks were able to keep it together, relying on the mantra that both state championship teams used: I’ve got your back.
“At the end of the day, I always tell myself there are 11 players on the field,” Rosario said. “If I make a mistake, I have 10 best friends that will have my back. They’ll be there to get the ball that I lose.
“Our saying is that we’ve got each other’s backs. I think we’ve lived by that.”
And so for players like Rosario; Collins; Spira; McHenry; Oxley; Jensen; Cook; Allie Worley; Johanna Webb; Caroline Boston; Taylor George; Serena Zarzana; Talorie Crafton; Morgan Brubaker; Reese Pulliam; Lauren Mieczkowski; Kaley Vitaliano; Victoria Whener; Alexandra Rowe; Amanda Vitaliano; Ariana Valentin and injured senior Catherine Koegel, Tuesday night was certainly one to remember.
After all, it’s not often a team makes the final four.
But the realization of that accomplishment will have to wait until after the season. Because right now, the Hawks are laser focused on one goal.
And in Lourdes Academy, Viera knows it’s got a tremendous challenge to overcome.
“The goal the entire season has been to be state champions,” Dixon said. “They know they’re not there yet. It’s still been one game at a time for us.
“When the season settles down, they’re going to realize what they’ve done is pretty special so far. They’ve won three trophies already. They won the Cape Coast Conference. They won the district title. And they’ve won the regional final now.
“No matter what happens from here, it’s a special season. But I know what they want. It’s one game at a time and now we’re talking about Lourdes, and we know they’re an exceptional team. The focus is going to be all on them now.”