Flagler Palm Coast blanked the Titans 3-0 on the night of Friday, Jan. 26, at FPC High School.
Bulldogs girls soccer coach Pete Hald set three challenges for his team entering Flagler Palm Coast’s District Finals match against University.
The first challenge was that he wanted his team to play “hungrier” than the Titans, who had never won a district title. Secondly, Hald wanted the Bulldogs to score at least three goals. FPC scored two goals in its one-point win over the Titans during their regular season matchup on Nov. 17.
And finally: “Coach wanted us to shut them out,” Bulldogs senior goal keeper Malia Dalzell said.
Dalzell recorded her 12th shutout of the season, and a floating kick by senior and team captain Saba Amiri that found the top right corner of the goal with 6:04 remaining in the game helped the Bulldogs take down University 3-0 on the night of Friday, Jan. 26, at FPC’s Sal Campanella Memorial Stadium to capture the District 2-5A Championship.
In last season's district title game, the No. 1-seeded Bulldogs were upset 3-1 by Spruce Creek on FPC’s home field. The loss snapped a four-year-long district championship streak.
“We were hungrier than they were,” Dalzell said of the Titans. “We just wanted it so badly. We wanted to take back what was ours.”
Dalzell never surrendered a goal during the district tournament and has given up just one goal (on a penalty kick to Volusia County’s top goal scorer, Spruce Creek’s Jordan Di Verniero) in her last four games.
“Malia has been phenomenal,” Hald said. “She really has just come into her own. She doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. She’s a feel player by nature. She’s good with her feet. She’s a great athlete.”
Forward Ashley Puentes was the first to break the ice on Friday night. The sophomore chipped in a short shot off a deflected kick by Amiri with 12:31 remaining in the first half. A shot by freshman forward Francely Rodriguez found the back of the net five minutes later to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead at the half.
Hald calls the two-score lead the “most dangerous lead in soccer.”
“I didn’t want us to get defensive in the second half,” Hald said. “[The Titans] were playing a bit more aggressive than we were.”
But even though University pressured the Bulldogs heavily in the second half, Dalzell and FPC’s defense preserved the shutout. Amiri’s goal was the final nail in the Titans’ coffin and the answer to Hald's challenge for the team.
“This team, whenever I challenge them, they work hard for it,” Hald said. “Everybody stepped up to the challenge tonight.”