By Official Florida FC

St. Johns Creekside’s 2021 season ended in the regional semifinals because the Knights made a series of uncharacteristic mistakes in quick succession that led to goals. This year, the Knights were on the other end of the gifts.

Creekside (16-3-1) advanced to the FHSAA Region 1-7A final following a 3-2 win over two-time defending state champion St. Johns Bartram Trail. Their triumph ended Bartram’s 32-game winning streak.

The two suburban powerhouses are one separate ends of Longleaf Pine Parkway in St. Johns County. The blue half of the neighborhood, Bartram Trail, got the better of the Knights in the two prior meetings this season, winning by an aggregate score of 8-0.

Bartram Trail (18-1) had opportunities to score in the first half, but Creekside goalie Anna Laughlin was equal to them. Laughlin was the Knights starter last year, but made way for Amaya Logan this year. Logan picked up a knock in the first meeting between the Knights and Bears on Jan. 21.

Laughlin punched away a Bears free kick that was headed into the upper corner in the 31st minute. Two minutes later Laughlin made a double-save to deny Florida’s top-ranked team.

“Goals change games,” said Creekside girls soccer coach Joe Soto. “For her to keep the ball out the net was massive for us, especially with her timing.”

Bartram Trail took a 15th minute lead when Creekside defender Breanna Robinson mishit a Carolyn Johnson service into her own goal. Robinson atoned less than two minutes later with a free kick from 35 yards that found the far corner.

From there, the hosts poured on the pressure. But, Laughlin was equal to the task.

The game turned on its head in the final minute of the first half.

Bartram Trail made at least a half dozen turnovers in its defensive third in the first half. The Bears (18-1) were not punished for most of them, until the final minute of the half. A turnover gave Creekside the initiative to push into the penalty area. The Knights drew a penalty that was superbly placed in the top corner by Paige McSwigan 30 seconds before halftime.

By the time the Bears caught their breath, they conceded again. A foul on the edge of their defensive third was inadvertently headed in for an own goal 12 seconds before halftime.

Creekside scored three goals in 40 minutes. The Bears had conceded three times in its 18 previous matches.

Bartram Trail stumbled into halftime shocked, but not bowed. The Bears piled on the pressure on Logan. But, Robinson’s presence in the heart of defense didn’t allow the Bears to play their intricate one and two-touch passing on the edge of the penalty area.

Grace Ivey’s 59th minute goal gave Bartram Trail a lifeline. But, the champions did not have another goal in them.

There will be a new champion in Florida’s largest classification. Bartram Trail’s reign ended with red eyes following a defeat to the red half of St. Johns.

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