By Official Florida FC

Photo of Flagler Palm Coast girls soccer players Savannah O'Grady and Ray Giaccone.
Savannah O’Grady and Ray Giaccone scored Flagler Palm Coast’s goals in the Bulldogs’ upset of St. Johns Country Day on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (Photos used with permission from @FPCWomensSoccer Twitter feed.)

Flagler Palm Coast pulled off the upset of the girls soccer season on Friday night when the Bulldogs ended St. Johns Country Day’s 44-match winning streak in Palm Coast.

FPC used goals from Savannah O’Grady and Ray Giaccone to defeat the 10-time state champions 2-1. Giaccone is a senior midfielder who never scored in her varsity career, but was in the right place at the right time early in the second half to score with her left foot.

The Bulldogs (5-3-1) had won only one of its previous five coming into the match and lost to local rival DeLand for the first time in a decade on Dec. 1. FPC is getting healthier by the week and will need those returnees for a schedule that includes perennial powers St. Johns Creekside and Bolles.

We caught up with FPC head coach Pete Hald for his insights on the monumental win. Our conversation was lightly edited for clarity and context.

What was your reaction to the result?

The way the game was developing, we obviously were playing good as a defensive group. I know (St. Johns Country Day coach) Mike Pickett and I know his teams because I have been around for 30 years. We were not giving them opportunities to score.

…We played really well in the first half as a defensive unit.

We lost the momentum (after Giaccone’s goal) and they took it to us.

I was fearful after the goal. Luckily, we had the water break. We regrouped. We were not offensive-minded. The whole time I was nervous. We gave up 12 corner kicks in the second half. But, in the run of play, we didn’t allow a lot of opportunities.

I just had the feeling we were going to play well enough to keep the one-goal lead and we did.

What were your tactics?

They had the throttle to the floor. We defended well. We had a lot of pressure. If you let a team possess the ball and have time and space (they will tear you apart.) We pressured them, so they made more mistakes than they typically make.

We played well enough defensively where we didn’t give up a lot of one-on-one opportunities.

We played well enough to not just keep it tied, but win.

Hald noted FPC used a central defender to take goal kicks in order to kick the ball over the first wave of St. Johns’ pressure. However, the Spartans had a midfielder who consistently won the ball in the middle of the field to restart attacks.

Flagler Palm Coast allowed 16 corner kicks, including 12 in the second half. Hald said his team may not have always won the first ball, but his team challenged those set pieces and didn’t allow the visitors high-quality chances.

St. Johns has conceded goals against local teams before, but they usually don’t trail by two goals. How important was it to go up 2-0 against (the Spartans)?

They didn’t panic at all. But, when we got the second goal, they pressed a lot and hurried a lot. They made a lot of mistakes that were uncharacteristic of them.

How will this help your team going forward?

This win is awesome. But, let’s look at the big picture. Beating St. Johns is not going to win a state championship. We have not played to the best of our abilities, but we have struggled with injuries and illness and then came out and produced this big win.

Are we going to take this and springboard into beating better teams? Winning against a top-ranked team in the state (helps). If we get beat by Spruce Creek on Tuesday… we are taking numerous steps forward, I don’t want to take a step back.

You’re approaching 500 wins, where does this one compare?

I’m approaching 900 soccer matches in high school. We have played quite a few memorable ones. We have won nine district championships. There have been big wins. We got to the final four in 2014 (when we beat defending state champion Oviedo.)

I have been in big games. Its the first time I have beaten Mike, who is a good friend of mine.

It was a huge win. I told them, let’s get this 500th win out of the way, so we could move forward.

I want us to compete against Creekside and (St. Johns) Bartram Trail in January. Hopefully, we win more big games to help our strength of schedule.

Right now, (our strength of schedule) is not looking too good. Hopefully, we can change that. We have Ridge Community and Creekside (on our schedule). The games are there. The question is can I pull another quickie? We’ll see.

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