County teams earn byes as girls soccer postseason begins
By J. Daniel Pearson
For the News-Gazette
Harmony High School, the 2019-20 Orange Belt Conference Champions and OBC runner-up St. Cloud, will both enjoy first round byes, as girls’ high school soccer begins its post-season this week with district play.
Harmony, 13-5-1 on the season and OBC champs following a 2-0 win over St. Cloud in the tournament finals late last month, is the top seed in Class 6A, District 12. The Longhorns finished off their regular season on Wednesday night, running away with an 8-0 win over Poinciana.
Despite being top seed, district play will not be a walk in the park for the Lady Longhorns.
Martin County is seeded second with a 14-4-2 record, and third-seeded Viera has lost just once this season and has a 13-1-2 record. Across all Florida classifications (7A-2A), covering more than 500 schools and 96 districts, three of the top 100 overall ranked teams in the state (Harmony 49, Martin County 69 and Viera 90) play in the district. In addition, five of the six teams have won at least 10 games this season.
“We are really excited about how the season played out,” Harmony head coach Scott Marlega said. “After graduating 12 seniors off of last year’s 17-0-3 regular season, we knew we were going to take some bumps this year. We also intentionally played a super tough schedule knowing how the post season was going to work. But despite losing 12 seniors and playing a tough schedule, this team gelled together nicely and is playing its best soccer at the right time of the year.”
The Lady Longhorns have been led all season by a front line of Jenna Butcofski (21 goals, 17 assists), Reinna Scott (12 goals, 13 assists) and Shayna Augusma (13 goals, 5 assists).
“They have been our front three for most of the season, but they all can fill in at midfield too,” Marlega said. “They always seem to know where the others are on the field and when they are on their game, they are a lot of fun to watch.”
Playing in District 12 is both a challenge and advantage according to Malega.
“It’s going to be difficult because any one of five teams can win the district if they get hot,” he said. “But on the other hand, with the current rankings there isn’t quite as much pressure to win the district tournament as the district should get at least two if not three at-large teams in to regionals. Still the goal is to win districts and it should be a great tournament.”
As top seed, Harmony receives a bye and will play the winner of the South Fork (12-5-2) vs. Sebastian (3-12-1) on Feb. 5, at 7 p.m.
“Having a full week off this time of year is huge,” Marlega added. “It will give us a chance to recharge our batteries and get over some nagging injuries.”
As with the Lady Longhorns, the St. Cloud Lady Bulldogs also earned a first round district bye. Despite losing their final three games of the season, including a 2-0 decision to powerful Lake Nona on Tuesday night to close out the regular season, the Lady Bulldogs finished with an 11-5-3 record and are seeded first in Class 6A, District 9.
Fourth-seeded Tohopekaliga will host Poinciana (6-8-1) in a district quarterfinal game on Feb. 3; while St. Cloud will host the winner of Monday’s New Smyrna Beach (7-6-3) vs. Liberty (0-11) game on Wednesday, Feb. 5, at St. Cloud. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
Celebration is also hoping to make some noise in the post-season. Ed Kuzma’s team finished the regular season with a 14-3-3 mark and has grabbed the number two seed in Class 7A, District 6, to also earn a first round bye in districts.
The Storm has been led all season by senior Isabella Foster, and a pair of freshmen in Sophia Lazari and Erin Ozyurek. All three players have scored 14 goals this season.
In quarterfinal district action, Freedom hosted No. 6 Osceola (2-14) in a first round district game; with the winner moving on to play the Storm at Celebration on Feb. 4.
Gateway (7-7-2) earned the number three seed in Class 5A, District 5. The Panther’s season came to an end when they dropped a 6-2 first round district game at Pine Ridge on Wednesday.