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Pickett revving Spartan soccer machine

5A: OPHS at CHS, Tues., Feb. 13

Randy Lefko
Sports Editor
Posted 12/31/69

ORANGE PARK - St. Johns Country Day School girls soccer tipped their toes (soccer pun) back into the River of State Championships with a fourth 8-0 playoff win in a row. "I'm still juggling the …

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Pickett revving Spartan soccer machine

5A: OPHS at CHS, Tues., Feb. 13


Posted

ORANGE PARK - St. Johns Country Day School girls soccer tipped their toes (soccer pun) back into the River of State Championships with a fourth 8-0 playoff win in a row.

"I'm still juggling the lineup a little here and there, but we are finally, I think, finding the right combinations on the field to execute our game plan," said St. Johns head coach Mike Pickett, now 14-2-5, who is looking to possible restart another decades-long win streak at the state title level after having his 11-titles in a row streak snapped last year. "Our tough schedule in regular season play has prepared us to do this now."
"Do this" means Pickett expected to put together a win streak to the state title game complete with a four-in-a-row streak of 8-0 playoff wins that started in the district tournament and should go to five in the Wed., Feb. 14 region 1-2A championship against Christ's Church Academy (10-5-1).
A win against Christ's Church, whom St. Johns beat 8-0 in the district 3-2A championship game a week ago, puts the Lady Spartans just two games away; state semifinal and final, from Pickett getting his streak to restart.
"We will see some better-prepared teams to counter our offense and with our serving struggling now, we have to get better there," said Pickett, noting his outside midfielders are getting runs deep to the corners of the opposition end of the field, but missing on crossover passes in front of the goal that normally ends up in goals. "We're getting to the corner, but we are not getting past that first defender. We hit that first defender seven times and their goalie was great tonight."
In Friday's region semifinal against University Christian; the fourth team put away 8-0 with St. Joseph's Academy and Christ's Church Academy the other two victims of the Spartan wrath, the Spartans were quick and decisive as is historical with sophomore sensation Sydney Schmidt showcasing her immense talent above the goalie box with three goals. Five other Spartans had goals; Isabella DeLeon, Camila Adams, Kaitlyn Sunderhaus, Cece Nowicki and Reygan Ropero in Pickett's effort to stretch his offense.
Schmidt understood her role in the Spartan plan with her past five games putting up goal totals of 2, 3, 2, 2, and 3; two in a 3-1 regular season win over Lakewood Ranch and the final four in the 8-0 streak.
"My movement in the middle is the biggest part of it and it's up to me to get open for them to find me or the open player," said Schmidt. "In the long run, our wings are getting better and better at finding someone in front of the goal. We have a lot of goal scorers up front."
Schmidt's prowess as a player is immense foot talent to keep the ball moving while her teammates formulate around her.
"We have so many talented players that when I get double and triple marked, I can drop it off to any one of them and they can finish the run," said Schmidt, recently added to the US 16-Under national team roster. "I can hold the ball and wait for them to get up to me or take it myself and attack the goalie."
In other region championship brackets around the state, Lakeland Christian (20-3-1), who snapped the Spartan title streak in last year's final, will host Geneva (15-2-0); True North Classical (12-2-2) will host South Florida HEAT (23-2-2) and Shorecrest Prep (8-3-3) will host First Baptist Academy (13-5-1).
In Class 5A, Orange Park will travel to Clay; both with a set of high-profile goal scorers; the Robinson sisters for the Lady Raiders and Brooke Bunton and Kirra Dodson for Clay, on Tues., Feb. 13 to play in the the region 1-5A opener. Clay and Orange Park both lost in their respective district championship games and have impressive season records; 12-2-1 for Clay; and 14-2-0 for Orange Park. The winner will advance to the region semifinal on Fri., Feb. 16 to play the winner of Vanguard vs. Beachside.