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Schools make history in girls’ soccer state championships

Lakeland Christian (2A), Montverde (3A) and Bishop Moore (4A) win girls titles; Pine School of Stuart (2A), Trinity Prep (3A) and Gulliver Prep (4) take championships on the boys side

DELAND, FLORIDA – Small-classification schools up and down the Florida peninsula shot their way into history this week at the FHSAA state soccer finals at Spec Martin Stadium.

In Class 2A, Lakeland Christian School’s girls’ team turned a hat-trick by winning its third consecutive state title, knocking off one of Florida’s most storied programs in the process.

Lily Harrington scored twice with less than 10 minutes remaining to lift the Vikings past 11-time defending state champion St. Johns Country Day of Orange Park, 2-1. St Johns Country Day (20-2-1), which hadn’t lost a postseason regional or state tournament game since 2011, got a late goal from Cece Nowicki but it wasn’t enough.

The showdown pitted two defending state champs as LCS (21-2-2) dropped a class this season after winning the Class 3A title last year.

In the Class 2A boys’ final, The Pine School of Stuart defeated Fort Myers Canterbury School in the state championship game for the second year in a row, this time by a 2-1 score.

Max Charles and Christian Kerr scored in the first and second halves, respectively, and the Knights (14-3-2) held on. Senior Jayson Gordon scored late for Canterbury (18-4-2), but that would be all that Pine School senior goalkeeper Javier Barbosa, a Stetson commit, would allow.

In Class 3A, Montverde Academy’s girls’ team out of Lake County celebrated its return to FHSAA play for the first time in three years by overwhelming NSU University of Fort Lauderdale, 6-0. It was the Eagles’ first title since winning consecutive championships in 2018-2019.

Montverde (15-2-2) got a hat-trick from Estefania Gonzalez. Her three goals staked the Eagles to a 3-0 lead.

Antonella Mazziotto Duffaut, Pahris Cotterell and Maria Mendes then scored in the final 30 minutes for Montverde.

“We are excited as always to represent our school and win a state championship,” said Montverde coach Robbie Aristodemo. “We are grateful for the opportunity and enjoyed the season.”

Trinity Prep’s boys’ team, meanwhile, finally won a 3A state title, and in dramatic fashion, to boot. Goalkeeper Shane Wright, a UCF commit, had the winning goal as the Saints (15-2-1) beat NSU University, 5-3, on penalty kicks.

Ryan Avallone, Caden Clifton, Mason Dowdy and Henry Brown also made PK shots for Trinity Prep, which is coached by Ray Sandidge.

In Class 4A, Bishop Moore’s girls’ team repeated as state champ – the first time ever the Hornets won consecutive titles – with a hard-fought 1-0 victory against American Heritage Delray Beach. It was a rematch of last year’s title game.

Bishop Moore girls soccer team repeated as Class 4A state champ, edging American Heritage Delray Beach, 1-0, in a rematch of last year’s state final.

Bishop Moore girls soccer team repeated as Class 4A state champ, edging American Heritage Delray Beach, 1-0, in a rematch of last year’s state final.

In winning its seventh state championship, Bishop Moore (20-2-3) got a goal from Amelia Miller just before halftime and some spectacular goalkeeping from Amanda Hernandez Cepero.

“Winning this championship meant everything to us,” said Bishop Moore sophomore winger/outside back Avery Jacobs. “We are a close group of friends, and this was the last game for our seniors. We didn’t want to let them down and fought hard for each other.

“Our offense and defense worked so well together this year,” Jacobs said, “especially at the end. We scored 40 goals and had zero scored against us in the playoffs (counting district).”

Bishop Moore’s boys’ team (23-3-1), meanwhile, finished as state runner-up for the second consecutive year. The Hornets lost to Miami Gulliver Prep, 3-2, in the 4A boys final.

Gulliver Prep raced to a 3-0 lead, putting Bishop Moore in an unfamiliar position down the stretch. Cosme Salas scored in the first half, and then Franco Garcia-Morillo and Tomas Sciarra scored in the first part of the second half.

Bishop Moore’s Alexander Pencak broke up the shutout with less than 10 minutes remaining, and Spencer Moler added a goal with 30 seconds left. But that would be all the Hornets could muster against a stiff Gulliver Prep defense.

It was the eighth state title for Gulliver Prep.

“I thought we started well for the first 26 minutes, but fell asleep on the first goal,” said Bishop Moore coach Tom Hage. “We had preached to stop their quick kicks because we saw on film them beating St Thomas Aquinas on the same play. The kids said the ref told them to back off the ball, which would have warranted a whistle, yet he allowed the Gulliver Prep player to shoot uncontested.

“We got rattled and the rest of the half was poor,” Hage said. “It trickled over to the second half as they scored off a deflection on our center back and then their best goal of the night on a counterattack just as we went to water break.

“We were nervous,” Hage said. “The kids would quit down, 3-0, but to our credit, they kept fighting as Alex Pencak scored with nine minutes left and Spencer Moler hit a beautiful goal. Unfortunately, there were only 30 seconds left and we came up short.”

Despite the second straight near miss, Hage said he was proud of his team. “Obviously, we came one game short, but we preach not to let one game define who we are and ruin an entirely successful season where we won our first-ever Mike Stone Invitational tournament in December (first time we have won in 13 attempts), our fifth straight district championship, fourth straight regional championship and second straight state runner-up.”