FPC and MHS won their first-round playoff games.
Flagler Palm Coast coach Pete Hald said his team won’t be satisfied until it wins a district championship. Matanzas coach Tony Benvenuto said injuries took their toll, but his team is in a good position to make a run in the playoffs.
Lady Bulldogs: Win the district
The Lady Bulldogs (16-7-2) have dominated all season, sporting a 15-2-1 record against teams in Flagler and Volusia counties.
FPC has scored 62 goals and given up 12 on the season, thanks to a dominant defense and goalkeeper.
Junior goalkeeper Haley Lademann has a 14-7-1 record this season, with a 0.55 goals-against average and 12 shutouts. The Lady Bulldogs have 14 shutouts on the season, one shy of the school record. In the Flagler/Volusia area, Lademann is 13-2-1, giving up five goals for a 0.33 goals-against average.
“Our season has been successful, but we are only satisfied with a district championship,” Hald said Jan. 14, adding that four of the team’s seven losses were 1-0.
Additionally, Hald said his team has struggled scoring goals, saying 62 goals on the season is low for FPC standards. Freshman Sarah DiLoreto has been a spark, scoring 10 goals.
Allyson Smith, Victoria Martins, Sam Salvatore and Robin Allen solidified the defensive third, Hald said.
FPC went into the district tournament as the No. 2 seed behind Spruce Creek. The Lady Bulldogs lost 2-0 and 1-0 in their two games against Spruce so far.
FPC defeated seventh-seeded Mainland Monday, Jan. 17, 7-0. The Bulldogs then matched up Wednesday, Jan. 19, against No. 3 seed Seabreeze for the third time this season. The Lady Bulldogs beat Seabreaze twice in the regular season.
Last season, FPC finished second in the district, losing at home to DeLand, 2-1, in the district championship.
However, the Lady Bulldogs then went on a winning streak, defeating Fletcher (1-0) and winning a rematch against DeLand (1-0), before losing 2-1 to Winter Springs in the regional championship.
Lady Pirates: Injuries took a toll
Heading into his first season with the Matanzas Lady Pirates soccer program, coach Tony Benvenuto knew his team needed to stay healthy. However, Benvenuto has had a gaping hole in his lineup since the beginning of the season: the goalkeeper.
The Lady Pirates (11-8-1) have had eight different players attempt to play the position, but Benvenuto said the starter, senior Stephanie Grebe, is now healthy and will help put the team in contention for a district title.
The Lady Pirates are No. 5 in the district tournament. Last year, the team went 7-15-1 and lost in the first round.
Benvenuto said this year’s team, which features four freshmen and six sophomores, has learned a whole new system.
“It was hard at first,” said Benvenuto, “but once the players understood the concept, they have really stepped up to my challenge.”
Benvenuto said one of the team’s goals heading into the season was to have a winning season and accumulate 10 wins, both of which it accomplished.
Benvenuto said a large part of the team’s success goes to freshman phenom Gabby Paiz, who leads the team in scoring with 25 goals and 18 assists. Additionally, Benvenuto praised senior Victoria Ecker, who was a midfielder for the past three seasons but switched to sweeper.
And the Lady Pirates accomplished another goal the week before the district tourney: to win at least one district game.
The Lady Pirates reached that goal after they defeated No. 4-seeded Clay 2-1 Monday, Jan. 17, in overtime of the first round of the district playoffs.
The Lady Pirates played top-seeded Creekside Wednesday, Jan. 19, at Ponte Vedra, but the score was too late to report.
Matanzas lost 1-0 to Creekside Jan. 11, in the St. Johns River Conference Championship. Benvenuto said his team’s improvement was evident regardless of the loss, because the Lady Pirates lost 8-1 when they played Creekside earlier in the season.
“These players have put Matanzas girls soccer on the map, and (are) a team to keep an eye on in the near future,” Benvenuto said.