FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High soccer forward Kaitlyn Scherer scored two goals to back a strong performance from keeper Mackenzie Kirk as Fleming Island seized a lead and held on for a 3-2 …
FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High soccer forward Kaitlyn Scherer scored two goals to back a strong performance from keeper Mackenzie Kirk as Fleming Island seized a lead and held on for a 3-2 victory over visiting Creekside in a Class 6A Region 1 Semifinal Fri., Feb. 19. The win continues the incredible first season of head coach Joy Rosano, herself a former Fleming Island Final Four soccer player.
“Kaitlyn has great vision and a killer shot,” said Rosano. “She is not scared to take a long shot. Mackenzie was exceptional.”
Rosano had warned her charges not to underestimate the Knights, who Fleming Island had defeated 3-2 early in the season and 3-0 in the District 3-6A final on February 5. Her words proved wise, as Creekside came out aggressively and controlled the action in the first half. After nine minutes in which neither team mustered a shot, the Knights had several near misses. A long cross from midfielder Avery Robinson was just out of reach of a charging Paige McSwigan. Then a header by Hayden Petrick and a long shot by Olivia Surrency landed on top of the goal. Kirk kept the Golden Eagles in the game with four saves in the first 40 minutes.
Fleming Island was sloppy on offense, their passes uncharacteristically errant. The Golden Eagles took only one shot before halftime, but made it count. Outside right midfielder Madison Male stole a Knights clear attempt, then fired a shot from the upper right side of the 18-yard box that ricocheted off Petrick and bounced towards Scherer to the right of the goal. The sophomore fired a blast that went through the upraised hands of Creekside goalie Anna Laughlin, giving the Golden Eagles a 1-0 lead heading into intermission.
The Golden Eagles seized control one minute into the second half when Male took advantage of a slip by McSwigan, dribbled up the right side and launched a bullet towards Laughlin. Laughlin made the difficult save but was unable to maintain a grip on the ball, which trickled out in front of her. Golden Eagles midfielder Catalina Broadbridge was the first player to the loose ball, and put it into the back of the net to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.
“That was huge,” Rosano said of Broadbridge’s goal. “It changed the whole game.”
The Golden Eagles kept up the
pressure, passing much more precisely and dominating possession time. After being outshot 6-1 in the first half, Fleming Island outshot the Knights 10-5 over the final 40 minutes. Rather than attempting long passes up the sideline that the forwards could sprint to, Fleming Island methodically steered the ball towards the goal with multiple short, quick passes.
“The halftime talk was, ‘Slow it down,’” said Rosano. “We were playing frantic. When we get the ball down at our feet and keep it moving, that is when we can break the other team down.”
Scherer struck again at the 29:13 mark, lofting a high, arching shot from above the box that grazed the underside of the crossbar and dropped into the goal. Laughlin had no chance to block it.
The three-goal advantage appeared to put the game away, but Creekside made the Golden Eagles work until the end. A penalty kick by Avery Robinson got the Knights on the scoreboard with 14:36 remaining in the game. Kirk made a save on a blast from point blank range at the 8:49 mark, but the Knights pulled to within a goal with 49 seconds left when Petrick drilled a ball from the top of the box that clanged off the crossbar and off the back of the Golden Eagles’ Lily Graham across the goal line.
Defender Maya Dawson cleared away a final Creekside push as the horn sounded.
The Golden Eagles, now 17-2-1, will host Tallahassee Chiles, a 3-0 winner over Niceville in Friday’s other regional semifinal, in the regional final on Tues., Feb. 23.
Creekside ends its season with a 7-8-3 record.