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Flagler Palm Coast girls soccer coach Pete Hald assumed it was over. He began to pack up his binder and was ready to walk out of Sal Campanella Memorial Stadium on the losing end of yet another district championship game Friday night in the District 2-5A finals against University.
Until his team came to the rescue.
With swirling winds and 10 seconds on the clock, senior midfielder Victoria Martins unleashed a shot on goal that took an awkward bounce and skipped past the University keeper and into the back of the net to equalize the score at 1-1.
A few minutes later in the first period of extra time, freshman Amanda Raleigh drilled a free kick into the side netting, giving FPC a 2-1 win and the district championship.
“I wrote us off,” Hald said after the game, as he laughed in relief.
Fortunately for Hald, his players didn’t.
FPC (14-6-4) dominated possession and scoring chances early on.
“I was happy that we didn’t give up a goal with the wind being at our face,” Hald said of his team’s play in the first half.
University and FPC both had a handful of scoring chances through the first 40 minutes.
Scoreless at halftime, University was able to draw first blood about nine minutes into the second half when FPC keeper Maeve Dineen was caught off her line on a long-distance shot.
Hald knew University liked to crack shots from a distance, and he said he warned his team before the game.
Trailing 1-0, Hald wasn’t panicking.
“I was still OK after giving up that goal,” he said.
But as the clocked ticked on, Hald was running out of time.
“They went defensive-minded, and it was tough in there,” he said. “We got dangerous, but we didn’t get real dangerous.”
With just seconds remaining, Martins became a hero.
Heading into overtime with momentum, FPC won the coin toss and had the wind for the first of two 10-minute, golden goal overtime periods. First team to score wins.
About four minutes into the first overtime, Martins got fouled at the edge of the 18-yard box. She stepped up to take the set piece, but she curled the free kick over the bar. A University defender left the wall too quickly, however, and FPC was able to retake the free kick.
No mistake this time.
Raleigh stepped up and buried the free kick. FPC was the district champion, and Raleigh was mobbed by her teammates.
“I can’t believe we did it, because it just doesn’t happen,” Hald said.
“It” meaning “winning the district title.” And he’s right.
In Hald’s 22 seasons, he has appeared in the district finals 16 times — including 11 in a row. He has won five district titles, but only three of the last 10.
“Terrible,” he said.
That wasn’t the case Friday night, although his team was seconds away from extending his streak of heartbreak.
“Victoria Martins was unbelievable (tonight),” Hald said. He also praised midfielder Josie Davis, whose nonstop motor continues to impress him.
“(Davis) is the most fit player I have ever had,” he said. “She plays with so much energy.”
The game did get a bit physical in overtime. FPC forward Sarah DiLoreto got called for a foul just moments before FPC scored. She allegedly kicked the University player while on the ground. The University player then got up and threw a punch at DiLoreto’s face. Both players were sent off with red cards.
Hald said DiLoreto’s suspension will depend on how the referee writes up the incident, but he expects her to miss at least two games.
FPC will host the Class 5A regional quarterfinals 7 p.m. Wednesday, against Fletcher.
FPC lost on the road to Fletcher, 2-1, in last year’s regional quarters. In fact, FPC has been knocked out of the state playoffs by Fletcher each of the past two seasons. This will be the fifth time FPC and Fletcher will meet in the past five seasons, with both teams having won twice.
Midfielder Cara Warren, who has been sidelines with an injury, was cleared to play, and Hald expects her to contribute quality minutes.
“Victoria (Martins) and Josie (Davis) are playing their best soccer, and this is important because the game will be won or lost in the midfield,” Hald said.
Hald said he didn’t expect to meet Fletcher in the first round. “I wasn’t planning on meeting them until the next round, but I definitely wanted to play them after losing to them last year at their place on the sixth penalty kick,” he said.
With a win Wednesday night, FPC would play the winner between the other quarterfinals matchup between Mandarin (who lost to Fletcher) or get University in a rematch.
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