The final score of last night’s Class 3A-Region 1 girls soccer regional quarterfinal was not indicative of the visitor’s performance.
Host P.K. Yonge broke a tie score with just under eight minutes remaining and eliminated No. 8 seed Episcopal (Jacksonville), 4-1, to advance to Friday’s regional semifinal.
The top-seeded Blue Wave (13-4-1) added two goals in the final 2:30 minutes to pull away.
“Just a highly competitive game,” said Episcopal coach Catherine Bowles. “I thought it could have gone in either direction. I commend them. They worked incredibly hard up until the final minute, just as hard as we did.”
Sophomore Olivia Belland scored Episcopal’s first goal 15 minutes into the match when the ball rolled toward P.K. Yonge freshman goalkeeper Norah Pancoast, who was on track to scoop it up, but it deflected off her hands and into the net to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
In fact, P.K. Yonge was held without a goal for the first 55 minutes of the match.
“These playoff games have presented new challenges for us,” said P.K. Yonge coach Rebecca Schackow, whose team broke a scoreless halftime tie last week to beat Keystone Heights for the district title. “You can’t plan for a team to drop that many players back and pack the back. You don’t practice that. It’s just so cool to see my players adjust to it and do something different that they weren’t used to and trust each other and play a little different formation and find a way to score even when the numbers were the way they were out there.”
Credit the Eagles (5-10-4) for their preparation to primarily defend the Blue Wave’s leading scorer, sophomore Faith Hardy, who scored four goals in last Friday’s win against the Indians.
“Recognizing that No. 2 (Hardy) is a strong goal scorer, so keeping an eye on her and taking out that equation, and keeping the depth, trying to make sure positionally that they couldn’t strike the ball through. We were trying to prevent them running through us because she’s fast up top, incredibly fast, and if she’s got space, she’s going to go.”
The game plan kept the Eagles within striking distance.
“Honestly, I think it was really smart because they were up and they were able to keep that momentum by not letting us score and so they packed the back,” Hardy said. “It was smart but it was a little aggravating.”
Episcopal may have limited the feet of Hardy, but it was her head that gave the Blue Wave the momentum.
Off a free kick from junior Marleigh Schackow, Hardy’s header into the left corner of the net tied the match at 1-1.
“Oh my gosh, that was literally the best feeling of my life,” said Hardy, who leads the team in goals this season. “I’m so glad that Marleigh positioned it where she did.”
A diving save by Pancoast midway through the second half prevented Episcopal from retaking the lead.
But it was a conversation with her head coach earlier in the match that locked her back in.
“I told her ‘if you don’t smile and pick your head up I’m subbing you out of the game’ because that’s one mistake, we all make about 20 per game minimum, and so just, no worries, shake it off and start playing the way you know you can play right now or you’re out,’” Schackow said. “And she bounced right back.”
Following the save, the Lady Blue Wave began to attack offensively and finally broke through on a goal just outside the penalty box by sophomore Emma Mansfield with 7:45 remaining.
Schackow scored the third goal on an assist by senior Madison Buss on a perfect pass off a free kick with 2:30 to play, followed by Hardy’s second goal less than a minute later for the final outcome.
“I feel like they are like us in a lot of ways,” Schackow said of her opponent. “I commend their courage, their grit, just how they don’t give up, they play hard all the way through. It’s an awesome team so we were very, very fortunate to get out of here with a victory tonight.”
P.K. Yonge, winners of five in a row, will host FSU High (Tallahassee) at 7 p.m. on Friday. The No. 5 seed Seminoles defeated No. 4 seed Pensacola Catholic, 2-0, on the road in the other quarterfinal.
Tuesday, Feb. 7 – Regional Quarterfinals
No. 1 Ponte Vedra 7, No. 8 Buchholz 0
No. 4 Lecanto 3, No. 5 Columbia (Lake City) 1
No. 1 South Walton (Santa Rosa Beach) 8, No. 8 Santa Fe (Alachua) 0
No. 1 P.K. Yonge 4, No. 8 Episcopal (Jacksonville) 1
No. 2 Bolles (Jacksonville) 9, No. 7 Keystone Heights 1
Wednesday, Feb. 8 – Regional Quarterfinals
All games at 7 p.m.
No. 7 Oakleaf (Orange Park) at No. 2 Gainesville
No. 8 Eastside at No. 1 Wakulla (Crawfordville)
No. 5 Bolles (Jacksonville) at No. 4 Williston
No. 5 Bell at No. 4 Harvest Community (Jacksonville)