Bryant’s dramatic goal puts Viera girls back in regional final
The Viera High girls soccer team celebrates after their 2-1 double-overtime win over Edgewater in the Class 4A regional semifinals Tuesday night.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
ORLANDO – The Viera High girls soccer team had another one of those moments Tuesday night.
You know, the kind that stick with you forever.
Trailing Edgewater 1-0 in the second half of their Class 4A regional semifinal, the Hawks got a game-tying goal from Mollie Roe with 26 minutes remaining and the winner from JJ Bryant with just under two minutes left in double overtime for a 2-1 victory.
The Hawks (19-1-1) will host Mitchell (Newport Richey) Friday night at 7 in the Class 4A regional final with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Mitchell defeated Sickles (Tampa) 3-2 on Tuesday – also in double overtime.
“It’s just so great for us because we’ve put in so much work this whole season,” Viera junior Shannon Gosule said. “We’ve fought every game and tried so hard to get here. It’s just incredible that all our hard work paid off and that we’re here again.”
To get past Edgewater (18-2-1), which beat Melbourne on penalty kicks last week, the Hawks had to overcome not only a one-goal deficit, but a team that was athletic, speedy and had an outstanding goalkeeper in University of Oklahoma commit McKinley Crone.
The Hawks did it by living up to the mantra they came up with before the game – go out there and regret nothing.
So even when Edgewater scored 15 minutes into the game – a momentum-deflating moment if there ever was one – the Hawks didn’t get down. They got determined.
“They’re definitely fighters, there’s no doubt about it,” Viera coach Courtney Lundy said.
Viera goalkeeper Sydney Lau was brilliant once again, coming up with a number of big saves.
“Sydney always has a great game,” Gosule said. “She saves our butt back there. She just always has our team’s back, the defender’s back. She did awesome today.”
With 26 minutes remaining in regulation, Bryant lined up for a free kick from about 30 yards out. The ball hit off the crossbar and Roe was there to put it home to tie the score.
And the drama was just beginning.
With the score tied at the end of regulation as well as the first overtime, only one more 10-minute extra period stood between the two teams and having the game decided by penalty kicks.
Edgewood had several chances to end it, and were it not for an incredible, quick-thinking play by Gosule, the Eagles would have.
Lau came out to make a save, but in the ensuing scramble the ball was still free … and heading toward an empty net … before Gosule arrived just in time to clear the ball away.
“I saw what was happening and I saw (the ball) was about to go over,” Gosule said. “I knew this wasn’t going to be our last game, so I just did everything I could to get it out of there and make sure we were still playing and that we were still in the game.
“We wanted to fight and we wanted to win so badly.”
The Eagles would get another big scoring chance late in the period, but couldn’t convert a perfectly placed cross that ended up rolling past the front of the goal.
That’s when the Hawks seized the momentum and pushed the ball downfield.
Brooke Walsh crossed the ball into the box and her sister, Jordan, headed it toward the right corner.
“We had two minutes left on the clock and I knew we had to keep that ball in (the box),” Jordan Walsh said. “Mac is one of the best keepers I play against. I know her very well. You have to hit it hard, otherwise she’s going to save it. So I knew we had to either get it in, or get a rebound.
“We got the rebound and JJ was there to finish it and … I couldn’t have screamed louder.”
The game winner came with 1:57 remaining on the clock and was a bit of redemption for Bryant, who had felt she hadn’t done enough with her free kicks earlier in the game.
“I was just so happy,” she said. “I was actually talking to Jordan and I told Jordan, ‘I need to score. I need to make that up. I need to.’
“That was running through my head. I felt it. I knew I had to crash (the net) and just get it in.”
Bryant said she also knew that if she wasn’t the one to put the ball home, one of her teammates would have.
After all, that’s just what they had talked about.
“Before the game, Coach (Derek) Smith told the girls he would like to see them score on a follow-up goal, and both goals were follow-up goals,” Lundy said. “That shows the fight, too. They weren’t going to stop until the ball was in the back of the net.”
Bryant’s goal touched off a wild celebration for Viera that even included the team singing “Happy Birthday” to sophomore Hannah Howe.
And there were plenty of performances to celebrate, from the play of Bryant, Lau, Roe, Gosule Jordan and Brooke Walsh to Sarah Sanford, Hollyn Knight, Sarah Kelliher, Morgan Pulliam and Julia Ramsey.
The Hawks also got solid play from two players pulled up from the JV team – Maya Norton and Jaclyn Zumsteg – who both played major minutes and never seemed overwhelmed by big stage.
Viera will now face Mitchell in a rematch of last year’s regional final that saw the Hawks rally from a 3-1 deficit in the final 25 minutes to win 4-3 on their way to winning the state championship.
“It just is a really good feeling because I know that it doesn’t matter what situation is going on in the game, we always have a chance because we have that fight,” Jordan Walsh said.
“That’s not taught. That’s a part of you. And this team has it. It makes me extremely excited for how far we’re going to go. We face tough competition and we’re going to need that fight if we’re going to continue on. That’s what it means to me. It proves to me that we really can do this.”