The Viera Hawks knew they were facing a big challenge when the Edgewood Red Wolves came to town.
Being a little short-handed made it even tougher.
That’s why Viera coach Cal Dixon said he was proud of the way his girls soccer team competed in Thursday night’s battle of the unbeatens at Hawk Stadium, even though the final result didn’t go his way.
Edgewood answered each Viera goal with one of its own and then took the lead for the first time with just under seven minutes remaining on the way to a 4-3 victory over the Hawks.
“My assistant (coach) Vince (Laleau) said how proud of them we were at the end, but eluded to, obviously, the defensive mistakes we made to let them back in the game,” Viera coach Cal Dixon said.
“But also, the chances we missed in the first half. I mean, we created a lot of chances in the first half that might have put the game away. But we’re proud of them.”
The Hawks were without two key players – sophomores Brienna McCain and Makenzie Ellison (one of Viera’s top defenders) – and two other players were on the field, but ailing as well.
Viera’s depth was further tested by some cramping issues and an injury to goalkeeper Ellie Gathercole, which came on Edgewood’s second game-tying goal of the night.
“With all that being said, I hate excuses, I don’t make excuses and I’m not making excuses,” Dixon said. “But with all they had to deal with and the fact that we have to go to Disney (for a club tournament this weekend) and then come back and play Melbourne (on Tuesday), I’m proud of their effort.
“They hung in and probably should have won a game against a really, really good team with all that going against us.”
Make no mistake, Edgewood (12-0) is as good as advertised.
The Red Wolves were aggressive and relentless in their attack, which came as no surprise to Dixon because he’s seen it first-hand. Many of Edgewood’s players are on the Space Coast United U15 and U16 teams Dixon coaches, or on the SCU’s U17 team.
“I obviously know them very well,” Dixon said. “I coach a lot of them and I know they’re very good players. It’s a stacked team with a lot of players.”
Edgewood dominated possession in the first 20 minutes of Thursday’s game before the Hawks started to assert themselves coming out of the water break.
Viera (8-1) missed a chance to score in the 17th minute when, after getting the ball past an oncoming Edgewood goalkeeper, the Hawks had a shot at a wide-open net but couldn’t convert.
The Hawks would eventually get on the board, just before the end of the first half when Kaley Vitaliano scored off an assist from Taylor George to go up 1-0 with just 1:13 left on the scoreboard.
The lead lasted eight minutes into the second half when the Red Wolves took advantage of a defensive mistake to tie the game up at 1-1.
It stayed that way into the second half water break and then all heck broke loose as the teams started swapping goals.
Viera’s Morgan Brubaker took the ball down the left side, moved in on the keeper and scored to put Viera up 2-1 with just over 18 minutes remaining. Back came Edgewood, tying the game at 2-2 five minutes later.
The Hawks then got an amazing goal on a free kick from Alex Rowe from about 35 yards out. The ball was struck perfectly and found the back of the net, high on the far post to make it 3-2 Viera.
Edgewood would tie the game again with 9:30 to play, then got what would be the game-winning goal with 6:57 to play. Viera couldn’t get the ball to onto the feet of one of their scorers in the final moments and the Red Wolves came away with the well-earned victory.
“To be honest, it was a good game,” Dixon said. “But it was full of mistakes on the defensive end for us. Maybe they would say the same thing for them as well for our goals. I thought our goals were pretty good.
“Whenever you’re the coach that concedes a goal, you usually say there was a defensive error from your guys and not a great goal from the attacking team. But I thought we had great goals and I thought maybe ours were more mistakes than them really breaking us down.
“… I think it was probably an exciting game to watch, I would imagine.”
There might be more to come, too, as the Hawks get ready to close out the regular season.
A number of Hawks will play for Space Coast United this weekend at a big tournament held at Disney World that runs through Monday. Viera is then scheduled to host district arch rival Melbourne next Tuesday in what is always a tough game for the Hawks. That will be followed by a Cape Coast Conference tournament game scheduled for Thursday that could feature a Viera-Edgewood rematch.
Viera is hoping to maintain it’s No. 1 seed for the Class 6A, District 8 tournament, which is scheduled to be held at Martin County High School.
“Hopefully, we stay first seed and we don’t have to play that quarterfinal game and get some rest leading up to the district tournament,” Dixon said. “We’re trying to keep everybody healthy. These next games will be real tough for us just battling through fatigue.”