Neither Melbourne High girls soccer coach Rosanna Lord nor her Viera counterpart, Courtney Baines Lundy, wants to openly focus on the other’s team yet.
Yet, on Friday, the two could play the most pivotal game of their seasons. If both win Wednesday games in which they will be the higher seed, they will meet two nights later at Viera for the District 6-4A championship. It’s a game that has been a key to the path of the last four state champions in the classification: the Bulldogs in 2013 and ’14 and the Hawks in 2015 and ’16.
Melbourne, now 17-1, won this year’s regular season game, also at Viera, 1-0. After a couple of years of Hawks dominance in the series, it was an early notice that the two teams could be equals in a battle for the state trophy.
“That game, they were the better team, player for player,” Lundy said. “They out-coached us, for sure.”
After back-to-back state title years, Viera has lost twice and tied twice already this year and is 13-2-2. But Lord insisted the Hawks are far from out of the state picture.
“I think they’re still really good,” Lord said. “It would be a key game, but, as a team, we definitely talk about taking it step by step, game by game.”
Beyond district tournament week, the two have played with raised stakes in five of the last seven regional tournaments, deciding which team would get its shot at a state championship. Every time, the winner advanced to the state semifinal round or beyond. Friday’s winner will have an advantage in any regional rematch, because it would be the home team come regional competition.
“Obviously, whoever wins our district has a good chance of going to the final four,” Lundy said. “That used to always be our hold-back.”
For half a decade, Melbourne was the thorn in Viera’s side, keeping the Hawks from emerging onto the statewide stage. The Bulldogs eliminated Viera in the regional semifinal round in 2010, ’11, ’12 and ’14.
Then, in 2015, Viera broke through with a 2-1 regional semi win decided on penalty kicks, 3-2, at Viera. It was the Hawks’ closest playoff game, and they went on to win their first state title, 4-0 over Pembroke Pines Charter at Eastern Florida State College.
Last year, Viera repeated its 4A title without a regional game against Melbourne. The Bulldogs were eliminated by Edgewater in the regional quarterfinal round, and both Lundy and Lord are quick to point out there is no guarantee of a Brevard team reaching the 2017 state tournament in DeLand. Edgewater and Mitchell are among other contenders who could send the trophy away from this area.
The Bulldogs and Hawks will have the advantage of championship experience. Four players from the 2014 state winner remain on the Melbourne roster, and eight players on this year’s Viera team played significant roles in last season’s title.
On Viera’s end, injuries have been a major story of the year. Lundy recalled a day when four healthy players practiced together while eight sat on the sideline watching and icing injuries.
When they returned from the break, that became less of a factor.
“The tempo at practice was higher. They’re excited, and they want to do this,” Lundy said.
Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or email@example.com. Follow facebook.com/FLtoday.brianmccallum and @Brian_McCallum on Twitter.
Girls district soccer tournaments
District 6-4A at Viera
No. 5 Sebastian River vs. No. 4 Heritage, 6 p.m.
No. 8 Port St. Lucie at No. 1 Merritt Island, 6
No. 7 Palm Bay at No. 2 Titusville, 6
No. 6 Eau Gallie at No. 3 Rockledge, 6
No. 5 Bayside at No. 4 Satellite, 6
District 8-2A, 6
No. 7 Cocoa at No. 2 West Shore
No. 6 Cocoa Beach at No. 3 Melbourne CC
No. 5 Space Coast at No. 4 Astronaut
District 10-1A at John Carroll, Fort Pierce
No. 3 John Carroll vs. No. 2 Holy Trinity, 7
District 6-4A at Viera
Seb/Heritage winner vs. No. 1 Melbourne, 5
No. 3 Lincoln Park vs. No. 2 Viera, 7
District 12-3A at Rockledge
District 8-2A at Cocoa
CB/MCC winner vs. Cocoa/WS winner, 5:30
SC/Astro winner vs. No. 1 Edgewood, 7:30
District 8-2A final at Cocoa, 6
District 10-1A final at John Carroll, 6
District 6-4A final at Viera, 7
District 12-3A final at Rockledge, 7