ORANGE PARK - Deja Vu. Just 10 days prior, the St. Johns Country Day Spartans faced off against the St. Joseph Academy Flashes on Mike Pickett field with the Spartans dominating the district 3-2A …
ORANGE PARK - Deja Vu. Just 10 days prior, the St. Johns Country Day Spartans faced off against the St. Joseph Academy Flashes on Mike Pickett field with the Spartans dominating the district 3-2A championship game; scoring four quick goals with four shots in the first nine minutes of play on their way to an 8-0 early victory with 25:00 remaining.
On Friday, in the return match against St. Joseph; the region 1-2A semifinal, also on Mike Pickett field, the result was the same except that the score was just 1-0 after 20 minutes of play and the game got stuck at 7-0 and eventually finished at 9-1 with the Flashes offering up a bit more of a challenge.
“It’s hard to beat a team in a week” said Pickett, who stayed unbeaten (15-0) and will travel to Tallahassee Maclay (10-6-1) for his region championship game on Tues., Feb. 23. “The last game they (St. Joseph) didn’t put up a fight. I know them well enough from coaching some of them at Club, they were going to bring the fight tonight.”
St. Johns beat Maclay 7-0 in the season opener on November 11. Maclay advanced to the region final with wins over Lafayette (8-0) and Oak Hall (4-0). St. Johns beat Bishop McLaughlin 8-0 in their region quarterfinal before facing St. Joseph Academy.
At the first water break it was only 1-0. That break was all the Spartans needed to make the adjustments. Just like that, at the half it was 7-0 capped off with an amazing corner kick by Julia Boaventura, who put a wicked side-spin on the ball, hooked it around the 10 players standing face-to-face in front of the goal, and the Flashes keeper watched the ball go in unassisted. “That’s by design; we put five players in the frame, they put five players in the frame and the keeper has a very hard time dealing with it. She just hit it really good,” said Pickett.
The Spartans had such a stout defense that the Flashes never got a shot on the Spartan’s Keeper the entire first half. It took a while, but once started, the engine stayed revved up all the way to another early victory, 9-1 with 5:00 left on the clock.
In the first half, it took just under four minutes for Gianni Lentini to break through the ice off a side throw-in from Mai Sadler at 36:03. The Flashes were not about to roll over like they did the week prior, and tightened up the defense, using the body, and not allowing any quality shots for the Spartans. At the 20:00 water break, things changed.
“The girls did a good job of staying calm, getting into a rhythm, and creating some really good set pieces and opportunities, where we are really good,” said Pickett.
In the last 20 minutes of the half, it was game on. Mia Sadler took a corner kick, and turned it for a score at 17:50. Sadler followed with a point-blank shot at the Flashes keeper that ricocheted out to Lentini for her second goal at 16:18, 3-0. Goal four followed at 14:34 when a throw-in was tipped by the Flashes defense, teed up for Sadler, who drilled it by the Keeper’s left side. The fifth goal was the almost impossible corner kick by Boaventura, unassisted, 13:46. In the final seven minutes, both Maddie Moody and Hannah Lemiex used Flashes defenders like pinball bumpers, bouncing the ball off a player, and into the goal for a 7-0 half.
Getting his team in gear was just a matter of time.
“After the water break, they decided to play,” said Pickett. “You can’t allow a team to come out here and bully you around, so my girls became physical back with them.”
In the second half, Pickett swapped out the entire lineup to get some of the younger players some much desired speed play. Of note to Pickett was seventh Grader Sydney Schmidt.
“My little Sydney in the middle of the field is fantastic. She was putting on a clinic out there,” said Pickett. “Really good player. She is soccer fast.” The Flashes stayed with all of their starters and at 32:38 of the second half, finally got a shot on goal, their first shot all game.
At 27:53 off a St. John’s hands call, St. Joseph lobbed a kick into the front of the goal and finally scored, 7-1.
The Spartans continued the attack with quality shots by their non-starters with Sophia Pontieri getting goal eight at 18:20 off of a Flashes hands call and kick-in, drilling in off the Keeper’s right side. The crowd had to wait another 13 minutes for Savannah Berrang to work inside a huge scrum inside the frame. With the crowd out front, Berrang punched it through to the Keepers right to finally end the match with 5:03 on the clock, 9-1.