Four different Lady Pirates scored on Monday night, and the Matanzas girls soccer team cruised to a 5-0 win over Clay in the quarterfinals of the District 4-3A tournament.
Coming off an 11-0 rout of Crescent City on Senior Night, the Lady Pirates have returned to their winning ways.
From the opening kickoff, Matanzas (12-6-1) dominated the time of possession against Clay. But the Lady Pirates couldn’t capitalize on scoring opportunities through the first 26 minutes.
Then in the 27th minute, Matanzas struck first when midfielder Abby Barker sent a long ball into Clay’s box, and forward Gabbi Paiz muscled off a defender, settled the ball and tucked it into the side netting with her left foot to give Matanzas a 1-0 lead.
Barker tallied her second assist of the night when she slid a through ball to June Errasti, who roofed a shot under the crossbar to give Matanzas a 2-0 lead with about 40 seconds to go in the first half.
Matanzas carried the two-goal lead into halftime.
“Clay is a much-improved team,” Matanzas coach Tony Benvenuto said after the game. “The first 20 minutes or so, they really gave us a hard time. But I thought once we scored, we could have kept scoring.”
That was the case just two minutes into the second half when Paiz took the ball to the byline and sent a cross into the box, which deflected off a Clay defender and into the back of the net for an own goal.
Up 3-0, Matanzas continued to possess the ball with a revamped 4-3-3 formation. Benvenuto moved Bailey Pickering to holding/defensive midfielder, which allowed for the Lady Pirates to control the middle of the field.
“I think (Pickering) is so tenacious back there that she could disrupt the flow of the other team and then begin our attack forward,” Benvenuto said.
The formation also allowed Barker — who Benvenuto said is one of the team’s best distributors of the ball — to find scorers.
With 26 minutes to go in the game, Michelle Dominguez sent a driven ball into the box off a set piece from about 20 yards. It missed the head of a Matanzas attacker but ended up in the side netting to give Matanzas a 4-0 lead.
Janessa Spina got on the scoring sheet with about five minutes to play when she toe-poked a breakaway shot into the net to give Matanzas its fifth goal of the night.
The Lady Pirates outshot Clay, 17-5.
Next up, Matanzas will face top-seeded Ponte Vedra — the defending Class 3A state champions — on Wednesday night, at Bartram Trail High School.
“I like where we are, but it’s hard to predict,” Benvenuto said. “If (we) can bring our A game, we can compete with anybody. I really believe the girls are ready for it.”
Earlier this season, Matanzas lost to Ponte Vedra, 1-0.
Benvenuto said he plans to play a defensive-minded 4-5-1 formation against Ponte Vedra, with the hopes of Paiz making a play. Matanzas has struggled to find Paiz when playing against skilled teams, Benvenuto said. But he hopes that changes Wednesday night.
“Your only hope is to contain a team like (Ponte Vedra),” he said. “We’re hoping for a 1-0, 1-1 grind-it-out kind of game. The longer we stay in the game, the better chance we have to continue (in the playoffs).”