FINAL FOUR, BABY!

Viera tops Mitchell 2-0 for regional girls soccer title


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For the second year in a row, the Viera High girls soccer team is headed back to the Final Four.

VIERA VOICE Cheryl Roe

The Viera High girls soccer team is heading back to the Final Four.

Repeat, the Hawks are going back to the Final Four.

The defending Class 4A state champions shutout visiting Mitchell 2-0 Friday night in an emotional regional final at Hawk Stadium.

“To be honest, this was probably the best game we’ve played in a while,” Viera coach Courtney Lundy said. “The first 10 minutes, they came out really slow. But after that, they just played some great soccer. Their runs off the ball, their passing, their one-on-one defense … just all around, it was great soccer to watch.”

Viera (20-1-1) has a date with St. Thomas Aquinas (22-0-1) in Thursday’s state semifinals at 6:30 p.m. at Melbourne High. St. Thomas Aquinas, the No. 1-ranked team in the nation and a 14-time state champion, defeated South Fork 4-0 on Saturday.

It will be a daunting task for the Hawks to say the least, but they certainly didn’t get this far by doubting themselves.

Mitchell, which blew a 3-1 lead to Viera in the final 25 minutes of last year’s regional final, came to town looking for revenge Friday night. But goals by Brooke Walsh and Emily Bodi, plus some outstanding defense by the Hawks, took all the drama out of this one.

Junior Hollyn Knight, who played a key role in both goals, said the difference was Viera’s work ethic.

“It’s a domino effect,” Knight said. “One person works hard, the whole team works hard. I just think we came out there and we wanted it. We wanted it more.

“We knew they were going to come out strong. We just came out there, we worked hard and we left everything on the field.”

As if getting back to the Final Four wasn’t emotional enough, it was also the final home game for Viera seniors Jordan Walsh, Sarah Kelliher, Sarah Sanford and Alexandra Capalbo.

Talk about time flying by.

“I never really understood it when I was a junior, or when I was a sophomore, but now I get that feeling,” Jordan Walsh said. “I’m just really appreciative to the underclassmen for stepping up and being part of the team and working toward playing for that state championship.

“It was just a great atmosphere to be in.”

Viera goalkeeper Sydney Lau made several nice saves, tipping one Mitchell shot over the goal and going to the ground to make several diving stops.

But the Hawks also got a dominant performance in the back from Sanford, Shannon Gosule, Morgan Pulliam and Julia Ramsey.

“Honestly, our four defenders were unstoppable,” Lundy said “They had each other’s backs and they played great one-on-one. … All four of them played out of their minds.”

In addition, the Hawks got solid performances from JJ Bryant, Mollie Roe, Kelliher (one of her better games, Lundy said), Knight, Jordan and Brooke Walsh and Bodi.

They didn’t just play well, they played together. That’s been the key for the Hawks all season, and was again Friday night against a Mitchell team that had come in with a 23-0-1 record.

“No matter what issues are going on, when we step on that field, we will fight for each other, we will give it all for each other and we have each other’s backs,” Jordan Walsh said. “That’s what I think made the biggest difference tonight, and hopefully in the future, because we have some tough competition coming.”

After a scoreless first half, the Hawks got on the board in the second when Knight split two defenders and got the ball to Jordan Walsh, who set up Brooke Walsh for the score.

Leading 1-0, it was Knight again with a brilliant cross. Jordan and Brooke Walsh both feigned as if they were going to take the ball, but it went to Bodi, who put it home

For anyone who thought the Hawks’ state championship was a fluke, or that Viera was a one-hit wonder on the state’s biggest stage, Friday’s win put those doubts to rest.

This year’s team won a share of the Cape Coast Conference championship for the first time in school history, repeated as a district champion for the first time in school history and has now won back-to-back regional titles for … you guessed it … the first time in school history.

“We have a bond, but we also have that fight,” Jordan Walsh said. “No matter what the situation of a game is, we’re going to fight. We’re going to go after it. We’re not going to let anything stop us. No regrets. We’re going to go in and however it ends up, that’s the end result. But we know that we’ll give it our all.

“I think that’s a very validating thing for me, to show all those people that … I mean, I always believed we were more than that one-hit (wonder), that it was lucky for us. We’ve had a tough road for our region. We had really hard competition, and we’re going to have really hard (competition at) state as well.”

Goals made at the beginning of the season can easily go the way of New Year’s resolutions.

But one by one, the Hawks have been able to put a big ‘ol check mark next to every single goal they set for themselves coming into this season.

Add that to the list of things that made Friday night so special.

“This game was very satisfying,” Jordan Walsh said.