Twice is nice for Florida powers
TAMPA, Fla. -- It took overtime, but No.1 Melbourne (Melbourne, Fla.) completed its perfect season with a 2-1 victory in the FHSAA Class 5A girls' soccer state final at the University of Tampa's Pepin Stadium against a Seminole (Seminole, Fla.) side that fought valiantly down a player for most of the second half.
The Bulldogs (25-0) grabbed victory in the second minute of overtime as Kristen Grubka rose to head home at the near post from a cross by Rachel Price, the ball slipping through Seminole's goalkeepers hands before settling in the right side-netting.
"I just got a nice snap on the ball, and luckily the keeper bobbled it and it went in," Grubka said. "Unbelievable. You just can't describe the words when you win a state title. Winning it twice, it's unbelievable."
The Bulldogs have now gone 48-0-1 in the last two seasons, winning the Class 6A title a season ago before adding the Class 5A title this, but Coach Rosanna Lord said the No.1 ranking and run to another state title had been put aside as the Bulldogs went through their season, which incuded a 2-1 defeat of No.3 George Jenkins (Lakeland, Fla.) in the state semifinals.
After sealing the championship, though, it was time to celebrate a remarkable run of success.
"It's almost overwhelming, because throughout the season we tried not to talk about that kind of stuff," Lord said. "I don't really recall going over it at training, or even at games. I think we tried to put that in the back seat, but now we're talking about it now, it's an amazing feeling. Not very many teams get to experience this, so I think we're thankful, we're thankful for the girls we have on this team. Without them, this is impossible. It takes a whole team, 22 girls, to accomplish what we've gotten, I'm proud of them."
HURRICANES FINISH UNDEFEATED: No.8 Palm Harbor University (Fla.) got an overtime goal from freshman Kelly Phipps to earn its second straight state title, this time in Class 6A, with a 1-0 victory against Boca Raton.
Phipps cut in from the left to beat her defender, and then hit a curling shot into the right corner of the net to give the Hurricanes victory with 3:48 to play in the first overtime period.
"This is amazing," Phipps said. "As a freshman, coming in your first season and winning a state championship, it's an amazing feeling."
The biggest key to the Hurricanes' success this season was their defense, which conceded only four goals in 24 games. At the center of that was senior Zoe Lombard, who had missed out on the previous season's title due to a torn ACL, making the victory on Saturday night all the more sweeter.
Lombard gave credit to the entire team, though, when it came to the Hurricanes defensive proficiency, with the side carrying the philosophy of defending from the front to a remarkably high level.
"To be on the field this year and playing, this is just one of the best feelings I've ever had, it's just phenomenal," Lombard said. "We've had such a strong defense as a whole. Our whole team has been defending, and that's what really gets us through it. If it was just the defense, we would definitely not be where we are now. As a team we are all together, we work together and we keep each other up. It's just awesome."
PATRIOTS GO BACK-TO-BACK: No. 9 American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) coach Phil Zayas was nervous ahead of his side's penalty shootout in the Class 3A final against Berkeley Prep.
The reason? His side hadn't been overly proficient in taking penalties in their practices leading up to the tournament.
"In training for the past few weeks, we've done PK's, and we've done absolutely horribly in practice," Zayas said. "As soon as the game ended in a tie, half of my team was already in tears thinking we're going to lose."
The Patriots (28-1-1) shouldn't have been as fearful as they were, as Melanie Mayer, Haleigh Stremanos, Melissa Camacho and Alyssa Robinson all converted from the spot, while goalkeeper Mikaela Barboza made a pair of saves to give the Patriots a 4-2 victory after the two sides had played to a 0-0 tie through regulation and overtime.
Robinson's shot sealed the game, and was the first time she had touched the ball all afternoon as the freshman had been on the Patriots' bench for the entire game. She was elected to take a shot by her teammates, who took a vote to decide the final shooter, and came through.
Zayas said he felt very proud personally having won a second state title in his third year leading the program, but added that he wouldn't have been able to accomplish it without the players he had.
"For me personally it's great," Zayas said. "To win two state championships, I'm happy about that, but again, it's all about the players I have and the fact that we believe in each other and work for each other, and that's why we're successful.
"My goal is to not only continue to win state championships, but to make American Heritage's soccer program better than it is every year."
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