As the Merritt Island boys made their own attempt at a state soccer championship on the field of Spec Martin Stadium in DeLand on Saturday, a Miami sports writer expressed surprise that the title won by the school’s girls just 24 hours earlier had been only the program’s second.
While the boys had two state crowns in their past, the Merritt Island girls had just one before Friday’s 1-0 (4-2 PKs) win over Jacksonville Stanton in the Class 3A final. That title came in 2010, but the Mustangs had been to four consecutive state tournaments, though each of them ended in losses to Plantation American Heritage.
Those were all in Melbourne, but with the added presence of the West Shore boys, this time it was DeLand getting a bit of a Brevard County feel for the week. The Wildcats beat Tampa Berkeley Prep on Thursday in the 2A final, 1-0.
West Shore had beaten the same team for a championship in 2012 and, in the interim, returned to the tournament without winning it all.
The first return brought consistency to the Melbourne school’s program, but Thursday’s second championship meant a great deal more. And the week meant plenty to soccer in the county.
“It speaks volumes,” West Shore coach Bob Robidoux said. “These kids have dedicated themselves. They know what it means to play for West Shore soccer. It’s wonderful, great for the future of the program.”
And though the Merritt Island boys were visibly disappointed with their title game loss to Seabreeze, what the program has done in coach Scooty Carey’s 21 seasons — 350 wins, eight regional titles and two state trophies — has firmly entrenched the program as one of the state’s best.
Then there are Melbourne’s boys and girls, Viera’s girls with two state wins plus multiple titles for Satellite and Melbourne Central Catholic, all of which argue for Brevard as the soccer capitol of Florida.
Considering that both Melbourne’s and Merritt Island’s girls have won titles in the penalty kicks phase in recent years, perhaps it was tradition that pushed over the edge in two games on the brink.
On the other hand, individual grit and determination was at least equally as important. That’s essentially what Keli Lindquist told our writer Carl Kotala regarding the discussion between players before they took their decisive shots on Friday.
“We were saying it was our game,” she said. “A lot of the seniors aren’t going to play on, so this was their last-ever chance to play on the field, so we’ve got to give it all we’ve got, and they did. We played for each other.”
West Shore’s Sam Leighton had a similar thought about his team, which actually had to forget the past to find its present.
“Ever since seventh grade, we were trying to play as that (2012) team,” he said. “This year, we stepped up and played as this team.”
History helped get the Wildcats to the finish line, but they had to cross it all by themselves.
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