A season that started out with hope and big goals ended in sadness and frustration for the Viera High girls soccer team Thursday night.
Despite having a number of scoring chances, the Hawks were only able to convert once while Melbourne got a pair of beautifully struck goals from Audrey Buck as the Bulldogs defeated Viera 2-1 in the semifinals of the Class 6A, District 12 tournament.
Melbourne (12-2-1) will advance to Monday’s title game at Tom McIntyre Stadium where the Bulldogs will be considered heavy favorites to defeat top-seeded Martin County (14-1-2).
Viera finishes the season at 9-3-1 after going to last year’s state final four.
Buck’s first goal came on a free kick from about 20 yards out at the 10-minute mark. Viera would tie the score 10 minutes later on a goal by senior Piper McHenry.
The game-winning goal came with 17:06 remaining on a long shot that seemed to curve and go in just under the crossbar.
Viera had a number of chances throughout the game, including a shot that hit off the post and another that went just wide of the goal. But the Hawks just couldn’t get anything else past Melbourne goalkeeper Rhea Soderberg, who had 11 saves.
“I don’t think a lot went wrong (tonight) to be honest,” Viera coach Cal Dixon said. “I think we played really well. I thought we were the better team throughout the game.
“Obviously, we gave away a free kick for the first goal. It’s fair, and it was a great free kick. That got them in the lead. We deserved to come back and I felt we deserved to win the game, honestly.
“They got a good goal again. She struck it from a long way out. But we had multiple chances to change the game. It’s one of those games. I thought we played very well. I thought we were the better team. But it’s always like that against Melbourne. It could go either way.”
Viera and Melbourne’s semifinal meeting broke a streak of 11 consecutive years where the two teams met in the district championship game. That includes last season, when Viera went into the tournament seeded third while Melbourne was fifth.
The FHSAA now relies on MaxPreps rankings which means the two best teams in the district don’t always get the top two seeds.
Thursday night marked the final game for Viera High seniors McHenry; Allison Worley; Caroline Boston; Savannah Oxley; Serena Zarzana; Talorie Crafton; Megan Cook; Reese Pulliam; Amanda Vitaliano; Ariana Valentin; Kalie Walker and Ashley Miller.
“I’m proud of every one of our seniors,” sophomore Taylor George said. “They really worked their absolute hardest the entire season.
“It’s been an absolute honor to play with them. All 12 of them. Every single one of them had such intricacy with what they did.”
It was quite an up-and-down season for the Hawks, who had to shut down for two weeks in November because of coronavirus issues and lost at least five games on their schedule overall.
Dixon said he was just happy the Hawks were able to have a season and praised his seniors for all they’ve accomplished.
“They’ve been great,” he said. “They’ve progressed the program to getting us back to a state semifinal last year. This year just sucked for everybody with the coronavirus. I’m just glad they got somewhat of a season.
“It would have been nice to go further, but at least we didn’t miss out on an entire season. It’s been a crazy one. We didn’t play as many games as a lot of teams in the county. It’s been difficult for everybody.
“But they pushed through it. They deserved to win today, I thought. But sometimes, that’s soccer. … They’ve been great. This group is a little more special to me because I’ve had a lot of them at (Space Coast United) club – at least six or seven – since they were 13-14 years old. I know them really well.
“It’s good to see them grow up. Some of them are going on to play college soccer and I’m going to follow them and keep in touch with them.”
While the Hawks will be losing a lot of talent from this year’s team, there will still be a number of good players coming back.
This year’s underclassmen included juniors Morgan Brubaker; Elizabeth Gathercole; Mai Jensen; Alex Rowe; Victoria Whener and Lauren Mieczkowski along with sophomores George; Kailey Vitaliano; Adrianna Burwell; Antoinette Burwell and Amber Teschendorf.
“I can’t say for the rest of the team, but next year, I’m going to take up a leadership role and we’re going to go as far as we can,” George said.