The Ponte Vedra girls soccer team finished the 2024 regular season on a strong note by defeating state powerhouse Monteverde Academy 3-2 on Jan. 20.
Not only did the victory improve the Sharks to a record of 15-1-1 on the season, but it also added to the confidence they have been playing with throughout the regular season as the playoffs are set to begin.
This was not the first highly touted team the Sharks have faced on the year, as head coach Dave Silverberg likes to put together a challenging schedule to help prepare the team for the level of competition they will face to capture a state title.
“We kind of went into the game treating it like it’s an elimination game, because that’s what it’s going to be like when we get in the playoffs,” senior goalkeeper Audrey Johnson said.
The game had a big-game vibe surrounding it as both teams are traditional powers in girls soccer in the state, and according to Johnson the Sharks embraced that had ever other one so far this season.
“We had never played this team and we were super fired up knowing their reputation and we know they are among the best competition we would get,” Johnson said. “We like to go out and prove that we can beat teams like that.”
However, big games can also carry lots of additional emotion, which controlling and not letting it effect one’s play can be a constant battle especially, for younger players, but that was something Johnson and the rest of the seniors made sure did not happen.
And the Sharks faced early adversity as the Eagles (11-4-1) struck first and led 1-0 at halftime, but the Sharks were not fazed and came out on the offensive attack in the second half with two quick goals from junior Jenny Dearie and sophomore Natalie Brooks, respectively.
“Our midfield definitely stepped up and they played some really good through balls,” Brooks said. “Coach just told us to get in for the crosses and I think we just did a lot better of a job of controlling the middle. That’s something that we always work on a lot in practice.”
The Eagles added a goal to tie the game at 2-all, but the Sharks continued to create their share of opportunities and pressure around the Monteverde net and Brooks eventually broke through the line of defense and buried a shot in the back of the net to put the Sharks up for good late.
“We’ve had a lot of young players, but they are really good,” Johnson said. “Knowing that we have great people ready to fill in our shoes when we leave, including some juniors who are ready now to be captains, is a great feeling.”
For Johnson and her fellow seniors, ending their high school careers with one more deep postseason run and a state championship would mean everything.
“I started my freshman year, and we won state, so it would be great to open the book with a win and then close the book with a win as well,” Johnson said.
The Sharks are the top seed and have a bye in the first round of the district tournament and will play either Fleming Island or Oakleaf in the semifinals on Jan. 29 at 5:30 p.m. Fletcher High School is the tournament host.