Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Stallions stung in 4A title match

Montverde handles University School in Sharks’ 1st final

- By Gary Curreri Sun Sentinel Correspond­ent

Defending state champion Bishop Moore struck late in the first half and held on for a 1-0 win over American Heritage-Delray in the Class 4A girls soccer state championsh­ip game on Wednesday night at Spec Martin Memorial Stadium in DeLand.

Hornets senior midfielder Michelle Elle Raymond whipped a leftfooted ball 40 yards across the field to a wide-open Amelia Miller, and the junior forward took one touch and chipped the ball over Stallions sophomore goalkeeper Andrea Herzog’s head into the far corner of the net for the lone goal of the match.

It was Miller’s 14th goal of the season and handed the nation’s No. 9-ranked team its third consecutiv­e state final defeat and second straight against Bishop Moore.

The Stallions (14-2-1) had two golden chances earlier but came up empty thanks to acrobatic saves by junior goalkeeper Amanda Hernandez Cepero.

American Heritage-Delray junior Isabella Larriu struck a right-footed shot in the 18th minute; however, Hernandez Cepero was up to the challenge as she tipped the ball over the crossbar. Larriu was thwarted again by Hernandez Cepero from 17 yards out in the 36th minute.

The Stallions, have made 14 state finals, winning six in the past 20 years, the last title coming in 2014. American Heritage-Delray led in every offensive category in the game as they outshot Bishop Moore 13-7 and had three corner kicks to none for the Hornets. The Stallions’ only other setback came nine games ago when they lost 1-0 to perennial state power to St. Thomas Aquinas in the closing seconds of the match.

Bishop Moore (20-2-3), ranked No. 5 nationally and the top-ranked Class 4A team in the state, has shut out its last eight opponents and has 19 shutouts in 26 games.

The Hornets won its seventh state championsh­ip in school history, which is the fifth-most titles in FHSAA history. They outscored the opposition 40-0 throughout its playoff run.

First-year Stallions coach Julian Slotty credited Bishop Moore for capitalizi­ng on its opportunit­y.

“It’s how the game is sometimes,” Slotty said by phone. “It is not always [that] the better team wins. I give them credit. They had some good players, and it was probably a 50-50 game, with us having the better chances. One little mistake sometimes decides the final.

“I am extremely proud of my team,” he added. “I think not a lot of people when the season started really believed in us in terms of going all of the way again and maybe winning it this time. We came so close. Sometimes you also need a little bit of luck, and it wasn’t on our side.”

U-School falls in its first girls soccer final: Junior Estefania Gonzalez scored twice in the first half and early in the second as Montverde went on to end University School’s storybook season with a 6-0 win in the FHSAA Class 3A girls soccer championsh­ips on Wednesday.

Montverde (16-3-3) ranked No. 3 in the country, No. 2 overall in Florida and No. 1 in Class 3A by MaxPreps came out strong in the first half as they controlled much of the possession and wound up taking a 2-0 lead on a goal by Gonzalez en route to their third state championsh­ip. The Eagles also captured back-to-back championsh­ips in 2018 and 2019, but 2023 marked their first trip back to the title game. Gonzalez scored in the 20th and 39th minutes.

After Gonzalez’s goal in the 45th minute, the Eagles, who closed out the year winning seven straight games, added tallies from Antonella Mazziotto Duffaut, Pahris Cotterell, and Maria Eduarda Silva Mendes. Montverde’s Gonzalez had her penalty kick in the 18th minute saved by University School sophomore goalkeeper Avril Ramirez.

University School (15-43) was making their firstever state championsh­ip appearance. The Sharks saw their 8-game win streak, including a thrilling win in penalty kicks over 2022 state finalist Benjamin in the state semifinals. The Sharks entered the contest ranked 60th in the nation, 26th in Florida, and fifth in the Class. The six goals given up were the most they had allowed in their past seven games combined.

“I am extremely proud of my team making it here, especially considerin­g how young they are,” said University School coach Diego Estremedoy­ro by phone. The Sharks were 5-9-2 last season. “We built on everything and got better as the season went along. It is too bad it had to end like this, not that we would have won because the other team was better than us. I don’t think the score reflected how our season went.”

Montverde has 10 seniors and nine juniors on their roster compared to the University School’s line-up consisting of mostly 9th, 10th, and 11th graders. Senior goalkeeper Genesis Perez Watson, who signed with UCF, needed to make four saves to post her 11th shutout of the year.

“I talked to the girls after the game and said this was a lesson for us,” Estremedoy­ro added. “We just have to work hard in the offseason. If you look at our starting line-up, everybody returns next year. If we continue to work hard and get better, this should give us fuel to get back in this game. Obviously, we want a better outcome, but we’ll be back.”

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