Just like last year, Ponte Vedra and Archbishop McCarthy faced off with the Class 5A girls soccer state championship title on the line. Also, like last year, the game ended in a 2-0 shutout.
But unlike last year, this year it was Ponte Vedra that was celebrating at the end of the game. The Lady Sharks continued their streak of shutout postseason wins with the biggest win of all, beating Archbishop McCarthy in the state title game on Friday, March 4 in DeLand.
What a difference a year makes, and what a crazy year it has been,
Because of COVID-19. there was a question whether the PVHS soccer team would have a season at all. But the team rallied around each other and their coaches and just focused on their goals.
“This was obviously a lot different because of the pandemic,” PVHS coach Dave Silverberg said. “We really didn’t know if we were going to have a season, and it was day-by-day, game-by-game, so we were just happy and grateful to be out there for practice and games and no knowing if it’s going to continue. So, to get it all in and then win, that’s just an incredible bonus.”
The Sharks weren’t necessarily looking for revenge for last season’s title loss, but it didn’t particularly hurt.
“Anytime you win, it’s exciting,” Silverberg said. “And to beat the team that beat you, it’s a little redemption, although I have a lot of respect for that team. I know that coach, and they do a great job, so we were joking about doing it again next year.”
PVHS stormed through the postseason in dominating fashion, allowing just one goal in its run to the state championship.
“We focus a lot defensively, and know when there are big games and the opponents are quality teams, a lot of times it comes down to one goal games,” Silverberg said. “We’ve been in a lot of those so we were used to it, which helped us. And defensively, we just kept getting stronger and stronger.”
The team also had the added struggle of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, wondering if there would even be a season, and having players quarantine, but that also left the door open to give other players a chance to hone their skills.
“We do have a great core,” Silverberg said. “One of our strengths this year was our depth. We had a bunch of players who could play, so we didn’t have to count on just one or two or three.”
The team also focused on working together and building a cohesive unit.
“Going into the postseason, our thoughts were ‘this is it, this is the end of the season,’” said senior Ella Shapiro. “We knew we wanted to give it all we had. We really were good at motivating each other and we really were trying to play for each other to get the end result that we wanted.”
Shapiro didn’t play on the team last season but was a big contributor to its success this season.
“It is indescribable,” Shapiro said of being state champions. “After this year, not knowing how many games we would have or if we would have a season, just ending on such a high note after working so hard, it’s incredibly memorable.”
Shapiro hopes to continue playing soccer on the collegiate level, but because of COVID, the recruiting process has been in flux. But she’ll take to college her memories of Friday’s momentous win and what followed.
“There were tears of joy happening and everyone was just speechless,” Shapiro said. “We knew we could do it and I think we played our best game of the season and it all just came together.”
Silverberg said the team carried that momentum throughout the season, and it kept building as the season progressed.
“They had this confidence that was building and building the last month of the season, so I didn’t really have to say or do much,” he said. “It was all them, and they performed incredibly.”
The teamwork was team bonding was key to this year’s success, said senior co-captain Eli Mabe.
“We focused a lot more on being closer as a family,” Mabe said. “We had a meeting about and just said ‘we’re here for each other and we’re all in this together, so let’s just get as close as we possibly can and finish out the ride for each other.’”
For the five seniors, they will leave on a high note and with the knowledge the team is in good shape amid the multi-talented teammates who are left. Mabe, and other starters, faced quarantine several during the season, but Mabe felt comfortable knowing how solid the entire group was.
“Knowing there are other teammates who are able to step up and fill in our positions was very important,” she said. “And this team definitely stepped up and did that.”
The end result to the season was particularly special for Mabe, who plans to attend college and focus on art and other creative endeavors.
“I knew going into my senior year that this was going to be my final year of soccer, so we just told everyone to give it their all because this is my end of my 14-year chapter of soccer,” Mabe said. “That was the end, but it was a good end.”