TRINITY — The way both teams were buzzing the net, a 1-0 final seemed not even remotely possible.
Unfortunately for Mitchell its prime first-half scoring opportunities would be the best of the night. Defending state champion Ponte Vedra made it out of town with a 1-0 win in the Class 3A state semifinals, ending Mitchell’s quest for its first girls soccer championship.
“I was confident the whole way,” said Mustangs coach Karl Kukec. “Anybody could have won that game, they just got luckier than us.”
There was plenty of skill on both sides. Ponte Vedra is led by University of Florida signee Brooke Sharp, who almost scored in the first minute. After that Mitchell held the 31-goal scorer in check but the Sharks (24-2-1) had plenty of other threats.
The one they converted came 15 minutes in. On a set piece from the left flank, freshman Claire McAuliffe sent in a ball that Mitchell goalkeeper Erica Disbrow hesitated to claim. In that moment Ponte Vedra’s Delaney Borror closed quickly and smashed the ball home with her head.
But the Mustangs (26-1-1) would not be deterred, and in one five-minute span surely looked like they would draw even. Danielle Gottwik’s long strike sailed inches over the crossbar, and a minute later Leslie Fallon’s cross found Amanda Hayes on the doorstep — but she headed it right to Sharks keeper Kari Davidson.
“We weren’t intimidated at all,” Hayes said.
With 12 minutes left in the half, Mitchell’s best chance went begging as Gottwick set up Taylor Meek alone 10 yards from goal. Meek couldn’t quite square up to the ball and shot it wide.
Gottwik set up the other point-blank chance at the six-minute mark. She made a great play to prevent a ball from going over the goal line, passing to Casey Bruno. But she shot high from 5 yards out.
Even with the 1-0 halftime deficit Mitchell had every reason to be confident, holding an 11-6 shot advantage. But Ponte Vedra came out flying after the break. The Sharks had six corner kicks in the first 15 minutes; Mitchell ended with none.
“We wanted to make it 2-0 early there and if not, we’d pack it back defensively,” said Sharks coach Dave Silverberg. “We knew what a great team Mitchell is. That first goal was so important. If they’d scored, could’ve easily gone the other way.”
With Ponte Vedra not even trying to score the final 20 minutes, Mitchell’s Gina Davis and Balea Schumacher took turns sending the ball up to Meek and Hayes. And the Mustangs threatened to provide a large home crowd with a thrill. However, on three last-ditch surges into Ponte Vedra’s penalty box, a Mitchell player had the ball at her feet but could not get a clean shot. Ponte Vedra has not allowed a goal this postseason.
This was Mitchell’s first trip to the state semifinals.
“I’m so proud of our accomplishment this season, and we took the state champs to 1-0,” Davis said. “We gave it our all. What can you do?”