Bishop Verot’s gameplan Tuesday night against Cardinal Mooney in the Region 2A-3 girls soccer semifinal at Viking Stadium was simple.
The goal wasn’t so much to outthink the opposition, but rather to outlast it.
That the Vikings did, securing a 2-1 win to advance to the Region 2A-3 final for the second time in two seasons. A year ago in this same game, Bishop Verot beat Cardinal Mooney 6-1.
“We talked about playing smart defense, waiting for them to make a mistake, dispossessing the ball and playing it up the middle,” said Vikings head coach Randy Zavada, whose team reached the 2A state semifinals in 2014.
Bishop Verot (14-5-5) will meet Berkeley Prep, 1-0 OT winners over St. Petersburg Catholic in the other semifinal Tuesday, on Friday in the Region 2A-3 finals at Viking Stadium.
The Vikings got two early goals in the first half, one from junior Olivia Miller and another from senior Kiera Clay.
Clay, however, had a foot in each of the scores, both highlight-worthy in their own right.
Following a defensive tackle in the 13th minute, Clay picked up the ball in the midfield and played a darting ball to Miller, who side-footed a shot off the outside of her right foot and into the net for a 1-0 lead.
Less than 20 minutes later, in the 36th minute, Clay turned from 35 yards out and unleashed a spitfire shot into the top right corner of net to give the Vikings a 2-0 margin.
“Going into this game, we knew we had to be the first to score because it would be a big turning point,” said Miller, who five games ago was moved up from defense to forward. “We’re big rivals against each other.”
Cardinal Mooney’s Sarah Quick pulled back a goal in the second half, finishing a shot from 10 yards out in the 54th minute to give the Cougars (15-4) life, but the Vikings bunkered down for the rest of the match, yielding little else.
“Our game plan was to hunker down a little bit and see what they would do, and that’s what we did,” Zavada said, “particularly when we got up 2-0.”