ORANGE PARK – St. Johns Country Day School’s girls and boys soccer teams moved their district 3-2A championship games to Wednesday with haste for upcoming rain and proved able to recover from Tuesday semifinals to both win decisively; 5-1 for the girls and 5-0 for the boys, both over St. Joseph Academy.
For girls coach Mike Pickett, the win was an historic 17th district title in a row on the way to a possible eighth state title in a row (seven in Class 1A) and an 11th state title (2A-2005 2007, 2009; 1A through 2019).
For the St. Johns boys, under coach Jimmy Merritt, a return to the playoffs encores a region final run last year that ended in overtime against Orangewood.
St. Johns (19-1) will host Christ’s Church Academy (4-8) for the girls region playoffs on Mon., Feb. 10 at 6pm while the second-seed boys (15-1) will host seventh-seed Rocky Bayou Christian (10-6) on Wed., Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. On the opposite side of the brackets are, for the girls, Bishop McLaughlin (7-12-1) hosting St. Joseph (12-6), and, for the boys, Lafayette (18-1-3) hosting St. Joseph Academy (7-7-4). Lafayette’s lone loss was to Suwannee High on December 19.
“This was an important game for our newer kids who haven’t been part of the program as long as some,” said Pickett, at 19-1 in season play. “I played a seventh grader at right backer for 35 minutes. They have to get a taste for the playoff level other teams will be playing.”
St. Johns girls are ranked first in Class 2A, fourth in Florida behind Montverde (12-0), 7A-Bartram Trail (14-1-3) and 7A-Cypress Bay (18-1), and 11th nationally on Maxpreps.
Against St. Joseph, St. Johns girls rifled to a 3-0 first half leads behind goals from Abigail Campbell and Kamy Towers who both had two goals on the night. Natalie Wilson added the fifth goal in the second half.
One ace in his pocket for Pickett, who has juniors Paige Crews and Maddy Moody as his team leaders, has been the play of freshman Laury Mateo who slashes in from the sideline and his been a recipient of pinpoint throw-ins from Moody on Pickett’s set plays close to opposing goals.
“Maddy is one of our best head ball athletes (head balled the state title gamewinner last year), but she also is our best thrower and you have to have the throw,” said Pickett. “Paige and Lauryn have becoming pretty efficient inside receiving the throws and getting to the net. When we get into the final third of the field, that’s when we want to strike. We’ve scored a lot off those set pieces on throw ins and corner kicks.”
Ironically, on the field Wednesday night was St. Johns grad and one of Pickett’s best throw-in specialists Payton Walton, now a freshman at Thomas University in Georgia. Walton scored her first collegiate goal in October off a header on a corner kick for the Night Hawks. Thomasville, 9-9-1, lost in the The Sun Conference championship game to Johnson and Wales on November 9.
“We learned from her how effective we can be with a good throw-in,” said Pickett.
For the boys, a return to the playoffs with an equally stellar regular season record of 14-1, built a 3-0 lead at the half that grew to a 5-0 final behind strong front end play from Landon Bradford and John Linge while centerfielder Dru Detlefsen continued his masterful quarterbacking from the midfield stripe.
Against St. Joseph, Bradford scored twice with Max Monroe adding one and Linge adding one and Detlefsen converting a penalty kick from a foul inside the 18 yard box in the first half.
Clay falls in overtime; advances to region playoffs
Clay High School girls soccer coach Stephanie Waugh was about as close as she could get to getting her first district title with a 1-1 tie with Pedro Menendez in her district 3-4A championship.
Clay (10-7) advances to the region playoffs as eight seed with a game Tues., Feb. 11 at top-seed Bishop Kenny (11-4-2) with Menendez (9-7) hosting Arnold (11-5-2) on the opposite side of the bracket.
Waugh got an early goal from Madison Padgett with Menendez tying the game on a penalty kick just before halftime.
Both teams had deep scoring runs on both sides of the midfield stripe, but goalie play was outstanding from both teams with Clay High’s Nevaeh Hester repelling nearly a dozen Menendez strikes.
In front of Hester, defender Makenzie Salinas was able to keep the Menendez scoring slashes outside of the 18 yard line.
On offense, forwards Hanna Chappell and Gabi Propper got loose several times for fast breaks off feeds from Kelby Griffin from centerfield, but were unable to connect.
“Our pressure with Chappell was the plan with her speed regardless of how many defenders they put on her hoping that they would make a mistake,” said Waugh. “She was double to triple team the whole game.”
Griffin scored the lone goal in Clay’s 1-0 semifinal win over Ridgeview.
Injuries knock out Lady Indians
Keystone Heights High School’s girls soccer team had a familiar foe in host P.K. Yonge in their district 4-3A championship game, but could not score a goal as P.K. Yonge grabbed a 4-0 win for the title. P.K. Yonge scored two goals apiece in each of the halves of play.
Keystone Heights had just two shots on goal; Shoshonna Fernandez and Kiersten Shaw, with goalie Kendall Gagnon getting 15 saves.
P.K. Yonge advances to the region playoffs as the third seed with Bolles (18-6) top seed.
Lady Broncos lose to top-seed Stanton
Middleburg High’s girls soccer got a 3-1 win over Lee to advance to the district 2-5A final against top-seed Stanton only to lose 8-0.
Middleburg finishes at 8-11-3. Stanton is 14-4.
Against Lee, Middleburg got goals from Reagan Allen with two in the net and Emily Stewart. Alyse Gomez had an assist and goalie Sophie Parish had three saves.
Fleming Island loses to Fletcher; earns playoff spot
Fleming Island High lost a thrilling 2-1 district 3-6A final to Fletcher, but earned a regional playoff spot for coach Frank Pontore.
“These girls play with a lot of heart and that’s what got us here,” said Pontore. “They are doing the little things each game better and playing as a team. Who knows how far this group can go?”
Pontore has been the architect of a state title and deep state runs for the Fleming Island and Orange Park boys programs and will have a foot in the door to take the Lady Golden Eagles into the playoffs.
“With the boys, we had loaded teams and it was a matter of getting them to play within the process,” said Pontore. “With these girls, I can’t ask for more hard work.”
Fleming Island, the region sixth seed (10-7) with Fletcher the seventh seed, will travel to Navarre (16-5-2), the third seed, on Tues., Feb. 11.
In the opposite bracket, Fletcher (9-7-2) will travel to Tallahassee Chiles (12-5-3), the number two seed.
The Golden Eagles are led by forwards Mary Schaudel and Morgan Hozier.
Oakleaf to face Bartram Trail after overtime playoff loss
Oakleaf High will travel again to Bartram Trail for their regional soccer opener after a penalty kicks loss to Flagler Palm Coast in the district 1-7A semifinal last week.
Oakleaf (11-2-0), with top scorer Hannah Johnson held scoreless against Flagler, is the eighth seed while Bartram Trail (16-1-3) is top seeded.
In the opposite bracket is fourth-seed Boone (12-3-2) vs. fifth-seed Lake Mary (9-4-2). Region semifinals are Thurs., Feb. 14.