Matanzas was nine minutes away from making local soccer history Friday night, but Flagler Palm Coast had different plans.
In a matchup of Flagler’s high school girls soccer teams, the Lady Pirates held a 3-2 lead late in the second half, but the Lady Bulldogs netted two goals in the final nine minutes to edge out its crosstown rival, 4-3, in front of a rowdy crowd at Pirates Stadium.
“That was kind of cool,” FPC coach Pete Hald said after the game. “I wasn’t happy (a few) minutes ago, but the (players) worked their tails off.”
Matanzas has never defeated FPC in girls soccer. In fact, the Lady Pirates had never even scored on FPC until Friday night, when they scored three goals this time around — more proof Matanzas’ program is on the rise.
FPC (11-5-4) dominated the time of possession through the first 20 minutes of the game with scattered scoring opportunities.
With about 14 minutes left to play in the opening half, the Lady Pirates broke the scoreless tie when sophomore Janessa Spina connected on a header into the side netting, giving Matanzas a 1-0 lead.
FPC, however, tied the game at 1-1 when freshman Amanda Raleigh ripped a screamer into the top of the net from about 25 yards. After 26 minutes of scoreless soccer, two goals had been scored within a 60-second span.
At halftime, FPC and Matanzas were even at 1-1.
“Before (Matanzas) scored, I was a little disappointed because we dominated the play,” Hald said. “We were doing everything we needed to do.”
Hald decided to go with a five-midfielder system for Friday’s game. Much of that had to do with his team still battling injuries, but he also wanted to try and slow the game down in the center of the field to limit scoring opportunities for Gabbi Paiz, Matanzas’ lethal scoring threat.
That meant three defenders for FPC, something Hald hasn’t tried up to that point in the season. The only problem is it created more space for Paiz, and she took advantage about four minutes into the second half when she got in on a breakaway. She buried the shot in the left panel for her 33rd goal of the season, giving Matanzas a 2-1 lead.
But again, FPC responded within seconds. An FPC player was clipped on the edge of the penalty box and senior midfielder Victoria Martins stepped up and roofed the spot kick to even the score, 2-2.
Matanzas (10-5-1) took its third lead of the night when Stephanie Giminez cleaned up a ball that dribbled past FPC keeper Maeve Dineen. With 28 minutes left in the match, Matanzas led 3-2.
However, the final nine minutes of the game was a frenzy for both teams.
With the clock ticking down, Martins got her foot on the ball inside Matanzas’ box and ripped a shot from about 18 yards away that clanked off the underside of the crossbar, down to the wet grass and then into the hands of Matanzas keeper Bella Benvenuto. The assistant referee immediately signaled that the ball had crossed the line for a goal — Martins’ second of the game.
Tied a 3-3, FPC continued to press.
With three minutes to go, Emily Turner, who is known for her long throw-ins, chucked the ball into the box. Freshman Taylor Gould poked her foot out and directed the ball on target. The ball deflected off Benvenuto’s hands and into the back of the net.
FPC had won the game at the death.
“Tough break,” said Matanzas coach Tony Benvenuto. “They beat us. We can complain about the refs all we want, but they beat us fair and square.”
Benvenuto said Monday that on tape, it did appear Martins’ shot off the crossbar did completely cross the line. He did, however, question the penalty kick.
Gould, whose game-winning goal was her first of her high school career, has played well for FPC, Hald said.
“That was pretty cool for her,” he said. “For a freshman to step up like she has, she’s been doing awesome for us.”
Benvenuto said he hopes his team will learn the lesson of celebrating.
“I knew we could score on FPC, but that when we did score, not to lose focus,” he said. “If there’s one thing they need to take away from the game, it’s that when they score, they just need to dig in and defend. And at the end of game is the time when you celebrate.”
FPC will be the No. 1 seed in next week’s District 2-5A tournament. Matanzas will be the No. 4 seed in next week’s District 4-3A tournament.