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SEMINOLE — Last year, Plantation American Heritage bolted to a big lead. It was all clicking for the Patriots. Their forwards were darting and scrambling here and there, sending in beautiful shots for goals.
All around, American Heritage was quicker, faster and more experienced.
It added up to a 6-0 victory over Osceola in last year’s Class 3A state semifinals.
Both teams had plenty at stake in that game. The Patriots were trying for their second state title in three years, and the victory against the Warriors propelled them to that goal. Osceola, meanwhile, was playing in a state semifinal for the first time in nearly a decade.
That game is now the prelude. The rematch — Osceola (19-1-1) at American Heritage (24-2) — is tonight. The winner moves on to the state final.
Now that the Warriors are back in the state semifinals, the popular sentiment is that they are dreaming if they think they have a shot at beating the Patriots the second time around.
After all, American Heritage is loaded again. The Patriots have several nationally ranked players, including Melanie Monteagudo, who has 31 goals this season.
“American Heritage is a very accomplished team with a couple of national pool players,” Osceola coach Anatol Popovich said.
Maybe the Warriors looked at video from last year’s game and make adjustments that turn the game their way. Maybe they’re a team where the second time around is sweeter.
That is the test for Osceola.
The Warriors know they are big underdogs, and they don’t mind playing that role. But they have come up with big moments with wins against district champions East Lake and Seminole this season. That continued in the playoffs with a sweep of district rival Palmetto, a rout over Lennard and a close win over Riverdale.
As the wins have piled up, so have the accolades. The team has become the flagship program at a school that has enjoyed an athletic renaissance this year. It started with a playoff appearance for the football team and continued with deep postseason runs in swimming and cross country.
Now, there is an opportunity for girls soccer to advance to the state final and win the school’s first state title in that sport.
“Our goal was to get here and strive for even better,” senior Angelina Kincy said. “We know who we are now, and we’re more confident. We know we have to play together so we don’t have the same result.”
Oviedo (13-6-3) at East Lake (23-4)
Outlook: This is the Eagles’ first state semifinal appearance since 2008. East Lake’s offense, led by Megan Kelly and Madison Del Duca, has been strong throughout the postseason. Kelly has scored in the past three games and Del Duca scored her 32nd goal this week. Though it is a district runnerup, Oviedo is a consistent contender, advancing to the state final in 2008, the state semifinals in ’09 and winning a state title in ’11.