Last year the Pace girls soccer team was a powerhouse on the pitch, easily clinching the No. 1 seed, and eventually the crown, in the District 1-4A tournament.
This year, while the Patriots remain a contender to reach the District 1-4A title game, their path will be a little different.
“We definitely suffered some setbacks, especially early in the season,” said coach David Seevers, whose team is seeded No. 3 in this week’s tournament. “As far as the district tournament goes, that’s put us in a different sort of position as last year.
“We’ve got to dig our way out of a bigger hole to get into the final match but, in some ways, there’s a little bit less pressure because we’ve dropped some games. We hadn’t done that at this point last year and that brings with it a certain degree of stress.”
While the Patriots will seek to return to the title game and defend their crown, the other teams in the district have only gotten better.
Navarre in particular, seeded No. 1, has been nigh unstoppable this season, bullying its way to a 18-2-2 record (7-0 in 1-4A) behind the sister duo of Emily and Lizzy Madril, not to mention other key cogs like Rylie Slaybaugh, Kayla Folse and Julianna Desalle, just to name a few.
After settling for runner up last season, the tournament-host Raiders are in prime position to reclaim the title Pace won last year.
Navarre will face No. 8 Pine Forest at 7:30 on Tuesday night. The winner of that contest will face the winner of Tuesday’s early game between No. 4 Fort Walton Beach and No. 5 Tate at 5:30 p.m.
Also competing on Tuesday, No. 2 Niceville and No. 7 Crestview will face off while the No. 3 Patriots take on No. 6 Milton at 5:30 p.m. at Twin Oaks.
“We played them to a close win at home, 2-1,” Seevers said of the Panthers. “They’ve got some very talented players. They just recently, as of Tuesday night, tied Gulf Breeze which is an exceptional team.
“When they want to they can play and they can play very well. We can’t just call that game a wash, we have to go out there and get the job done.”
Jaguars, Dolphins again on top in 1-3A
For the last two years, the District 1-3A championship has come down to West Florida High and Gulf Breeze.
This week, the two teams will try and make it a third.
Gulf Breeze and West Florida High, seeded No. 1 and 2 respectively, won’t play until Wednesday’s semifinal round, but both will keep a close eye on the quarterfinals at Washington High.
“I’m of the mindset that districts is a different season,” said West Florida High coach Peter Stephens. “I could care less about the regular season. As soon as district play starts, that’s when the season really starts.”
The Jaguars will keep an especially close eye on Tuesday’s game between No. 3 Choctawhatchee and No. 6 Escambia, the winner of which will face West Florida High on Wednesday.
“Choctaw is dangerous,” said Stephens. “They’re always going to be a dangerous team, they match up well against us, but I’m not going to look ahead.
“I’m going to look at Escambia-Choctaw. We have to be prepared for whatever happens.”
Choctaw and Escambia play at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday while No. 4 Pensacola High and No. 5 Washington play at 7:30 p.m.
Crusaders focused on reclaiming title
The Catholic girls soccer team realized it would endure some growing pains under then-first-year coach Mark Yepishin last season.
Now, the Crusaders are ready to rumble.
After finishing as the District 1-2A runner-up last season, No. 2-seeded Catholic is looking to reclaim the district crown.
Catholic begins its postseason journey today when it travels to Freeport for the opening match of the tournament, a contest against No. 7 Bozeman at 5 p.m.
If Catholic (14-7-1, 13-1-0 in 1-2A) can return to the title game, they will likely face a top-seeded North Bay Haven team that also finished 13-1 in the district.
At Navarre High School
• Game 1: No. 4 Fort Walton Beach vs. No. 5 Tate, 5:30 p.m.
• Game 2: No. 1 Navarre vs. No. 8 Pine Forest, 7:30 p.m.
• Game 3: No. 3 Pace vs. No. 6 Milton (at Twin Oaks), 5:30 p.m.
• Game 4: No. 2 Niceville vs. No. 7 Crestview (at Twin Oaks), 7:30 p.m.
• Game 5: G4 winner vs. G3 winner, 5:30 p.m.
• Game 6: G2 winner vs. G1 winner, 7:30 p.m.
• Championship: G5 winner vs. G6 winner, 6 p.m.
At Washington High School
• Game 1: No. 3 Choctawhatchee vs. No. 6 Escambia, 5:30 p.m.
• Game 2: No. 4 Pensacola High vs. No. 5 Washington, 7:30 p.m.
• Game 3: G1 winner vs. No. 2 West Florida High, 5:30 p.m.
• Game 4: G2 winner vs. No. 1 Gulf Breeze, 7:30 p.m.
• Championship: G3 winner vs. G4 winner, 6 p.m.
• Game 1: No. 7 Bozeman at No. 2 Pensacola Catholic, 5 p.m.
• Game 2: No. 8 Walton vs. No. 1 North Bay Haven, 7 p.m.
• Game 3: No. 6 Freeport vs. No. 3 South Walton, 5 p.m.
• Game 4: No. 5 Marianna vs. No. 4 Baker, 7 p.m.
• Game 5: G3 winner vs. G1 winner, 5 p.m.
• Game 6: G4 winner vs. G2 winner, 7 p.m.
• Championship: G5 winner vs. G6 winner, 7 p.m.