HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS SOCCER
Victoria Saurez scored in the opening 25 minutes, and Jenna Butcofski added a second-half clincher, as the Lady Longhorns upset top-seeded St. Cloud, 2-0, to win the Orange Belt Conference Championship Tournament in a game played at Celebration High School.
The Storm took the third place game with a 2-1 overtime decision over Tohopekaliga.
“It was not a pretty game to watch in terms of flow and creative soccer,” Harmony Head Coach Scott Marlega said. “But it was a true rivalry game where the soccer wasn’t pretty. It was more about who wanted the game more.”
Marlega noted that his team came out nervous, most likely due to a 2-1 loss his team suffered at the hands of the Lady Bulldogs earlier in the season. But his team settled down after the first water break.
Byrnn Magner came charging down the left flank and fired a pass to Saurez; who cut past a defender and placed a right-footed shot to far post over the goaltender’s head.
The rest of the game went pretty much back and forth with Harmony controlling possession, and St. Cloud content on clearing the ball out of its own end. With about 20 minutes left, Butcofski took a pass from Reinna Scott and placed it a left-footed shot in the corner of the net for the clinching goal.
“I didn’t have to say much to the girls before the match,” Marlega said. “They knew what was at stake, an OBC Championship and I think they were highly motivated to play in the game because of the loss earlier in the season. “
Marlega credited the play of center backs Erin Jones and Zole Young; as well as fullbacks MacKenzie Kish and Morgan Sullivan.
“St. Cloud has a really strong front three attack and out defense did a great job of limiting their opportunities. When they did get shots, goalie Angie Santos answered. She had some routine saves but also made a couple big ones.”
The win lifted Harmony to 11-4-1 on the season and was their seventh win in eight games after starting the season 3-3-1.
“We graduated 12 seniors off of last year’s team,” Marlega said about his team that went undefeated in the regular season and finished with a 17-1-4 mark. “We certainly needed to build some chemistry but we also played a brutally hard schedule at the start of the season. In the long run, I think it will help us as we get ready for districts and the postseason.”
It was Harmony’s 12th OBC championship in a row, but they were placed in a new district this year, where they will face traditional state powers Melbourne and Viera. Since the Jan. 16 win over St. Cloud in the OBC Championship game, the Longhorns lost a tough 1-0 decision to state-ranked Bishop Moore.
Prior to the Harmony loss, St. Cloud had gone 4-1-1 in their previous six; but suffered a second consecutive loss after the OBC championship game to Lake Wales by a 2-1 count. St. Cloud is now 11-4-3 on the season and closed out its regular season with Lake Nona on Thursday. Harmony played Timber Creek on Thursday and closes the regular season with a Jan. 28 match with Poinciana. District tournament play for all county schools will be held Jan. 27 to Feb. 8.
• Celebration 12-2-3; Played Liberty Jan. 22; Wekiva Springs, Jan. 24.
Gateway: 6-6-2; Played Osceola Jan. 24.
• Iarmony 11-5-1 Played Timber Creek Jan. 23; Poinciana Jan. 28.
• Miberty 0-10-0 Played Celebration Jan. 22; Played New Dimensions Jan. 23, Osceola Jan. 28.
• Psceola 2-11-0 Played Minneola Jan. 23; Played Osceola Jan. 24.
• Poinciana -6-1 Played Tohopekaliga Jan. 24; Harmony Jan. 28.
• St Cloud 11-4-1 Played Lake Nona Jan. 23
• Tohopekaliga 4- -1< at Poinciana Jan. 24.