In a completely unfamiliar season, the Ponte Vedra girls soccer team will face a familiar foe in its second consecutive state championship title game.
The Lady Sharks defeated host Land O’Lakes 1-0 in the Class 5A state semifinals Friday, Feb. 26, setting up a showdown in the state final with Archbishop McCarthy, which defeated PVHS 2-0 in the state championship game last season.
PVHS coach Dave Silverberg said while the two teams have been in this position not so long ago, a lot has changed since that showdown.
“When you get to the final, you're just excited to be there,” Silverberg said. “Teams change year-to-year. They’re different, we’re different, so it’s not going to be the same matchup.”
While sports teams across the country have had the added obstacle of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the silver lining for the Lady Sharks may have been the ability to face new competition and rotate more players throughout the season.
“I think this year, we have a little more depth,” Silverberg said. “COVID kind of forced us into different playing situations. The pool of players we can feel confident about is larger than previously.”
The pandemic may have also given the team the opportunity to better learn how to persevere.
“There is nothing good about it [COVID], but it teaches them that there is adversity, and you have to deal with it and these kids have,” Silverberg said.
The Lady Sharks’ defense has been stellar in the postseason, giving up just one goal during the playoffs — in a 9-1 victory over Gainesville in the regional quarterfinals — and following with three consecutive shutouts against Seabreeze, Gulf Breeze and Land O’Lakes en route to the state title game. Goalkeeper Audrey Johnson has helped the Sharks earn six shutouts in their last seven games.
"We take pride in the defense, but the offensive attackers are very strong," Silverberg said.
Offensively, PVHS is led by Maggie Mace with 11 goals and nine assists and Tamlyn Parkes and Ella Shapiro with nine goals and seven assists apiece.
While the state championship may seem like a lot of added stress, Silverberg said he’s happy where the team mentality is heading into the game. During the postseason, the players were aware if they lose, the season is over, he said. But heading into Friday's game, the season ends regardless, so that actually alleviates some of the pressure.
It’s the last game, no matter what,” Silverberg said. “There’s only us and them and someone’s going to win. We've just tried to put ourselves in the best position for it to be us.”
Ponte Vedra (13-3-5) and Archbishop McCarthy (18-4-1) face off in the Class 5A state final at 4 p.m. Friday in DeLand.