The dash to DeLand kicks off on Tuesday night

By Official Florida FC

The FHSAA girls soccer playoffs kick off on Tuesday night with 96 regional quarterfinals divided among the six classifications. Those who survive and advance will play on Friday night.

Here are five things we have our eye on as the postseason kicks off.

Clash of Champions

The Class 6A bracket is absolutely loaded.

St. Thomas Aquinas, the most successful girls soccer program in state history is in Region 4-6A, as is two-time state champion Miami Lourdes.

Oviedo, a four-time state champion, kicks off its quest for a fifth against five-time state finalist Lakeland George Jenkins is Region 2-6A. The winner of that game may face two-time state champion – and 2022 state semifinalist – Viera in the regional semifinals on Friday night.

Meanwhile, on the west coast of the state, Land O’ Lakes is hiding in plain sight. The Gators (13-5-3) are the No. 2 seed in Region 3-6A. Longtime head coach Vicky King has been on the touchline for 36 years and led the Gators to the state semifinals in each of the last two seasons.

Fletcher central defender Mia Diaz (19) clears the ball before Viera forward Taylor George can close her down during a FHSAA Class 6A state semifinal on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022. (Photo by Will Brown, Official Florida FC)

Region 1 may be anyone’s game. Reigning state champion Fletcher shocked everyone but themselves when they won the Class 6A title last year. Should the fifth-seeded Senators beat Fleming Island – Fleming Island won 3-0 on Jan. 19 and 1-0 on Jan. 27 – they would travel to three-time state champion Ponte Vedra.

Ponte Vedra girls soccer coach Dave Silverberg has won seven state championships – his first four were at nearby Nease before Ponte Vedra opened in 2009. The Sharks (15-3) are using a formula that has served them well: resolute defense and opportunistic goal-scoring. Ponte Vedra has conceded one time in six matches since the start of the calendar year.

Small schools, big stakes

St. Johns Country Day girls soccer coach Mike Pickett speaks with the Spartans following a Nov. 19 win over St. Johns Bartram Trail. Pickett and the Spartans won their eighth straight FHSAA state championship in February, while Bartram Trail claimed its first state title in 2020. (Photo by Will Brown, Official Florida FC)

Lakeland Christian (16-2-2) has won consecutive titles in Class 3A. The Vikings returned to Class 2A this season and are on a collision course to face Orange Park St. Johns Country Day in the state final.

The Spartans (16-1-1) have been a top two team in the statewide rankings all season. The teams who have found a way to score on them – Bartram Trail, Montverde Academy, Tallahassee Chiles, Viera and Bishop Moore – is a reflection of the type of performance it will take to dethrone the program that has won 11 consecutive state titles.

Then again, one would expect the Spartans to have an air-tight defense, considering St. Johns alumna and 2022 NWSL Best XI fullback Carson Pickett served as an assistant coach this season.

Maddie Lopez appears to be the emotional leader for Lakeland Christian. After scoring 22 goals as a sophomore and missing all of the 2022 season with a ACL injury, the senior forward has five goals and six assists in 15 matches.

Monteverde is the only team to beat St. Johns Country Day this season. Lakeland Christian beat Montverde on Jan. 10. Lopez provided an assist in that upset win.

Goals galore

Eight girls, according to Maxpreps, scored 40 or more goals this season.

Kissimmee Poinciana senior Valerie Correa led the state with 82 goals. But, that wasn’t enough to advance to the postseason.

Second in the state, again according to Maxpreps, is Keystone Heights sophomore Kiersten Shaw. She has 71 goals in 24 games and helped the Indians (19-5) advance to the postseason for the second time in the last three seasons. Shaw has 196 varsity goals in four seasons – Keystone Heights is a rural junior/senior school in southwest Clay County – and scored in 21 different matches this year.

Other girls whose shooting boots may determine how far their team advances in the playoffs are Glades Day’s Hana Lohmann (62 goals, 20 games), Lecanto’s Mallory Mushlit (50 goals, 17 games) and the Pine School’s Giovanna Waksman (44 goals, 12 games).

Elsewhere, University of Georgia commitment Cayla Jackson has scored 41 goals in 14 games this year for Clermont East Ridge. Jackson scored 34 as a freshman and 38 more last year. Anyone in Region 1-7A who gives her space may find out the hard way how deadly she can be.

Bartram Trail midfielder Reese Henley, left, dribbles away from Creekside’s Hayden Petrick during the District 1-7A tournament final. St. Johns Bartram Trail beat St. Johns Creekside 4-3 in the District 1-7A tournament final. The Bears (16-0-2) enter the FHSAA playoffs unbeaten for the second straight season. Creekside (10-5) scored within the first three minutes, and equalized in the last minute, but somehow lost. The two programs have won each of the previous 3 Class 7A state championships. (Will Brown, Official Florida FC)

Longleaf Pine preeminence

Bartram Trail and Creekside are separated by four miles on Longleaf Pine Parkway. The two programs have won the Class 7A state championship in each of the last three seasons. Creekside shocked Bartram 3-2 in the regional semifinals last year to end the Bears’ 32-game unbeaten run.

Both programs are optimistic they will meet again in the Region 1-7A final on Valentine’s Day. Bartram Trail (16-0-2) held on for a 4-3 win in the District 1-7A final on Feb. 2.

One program that would love to break the hegemony is Weston Cypress Bay. The Lightning – who are 15-2 this season and won 13 straight – have advanced to the state final in each of the last three seasons. They have been outscored by the St. Johns duo 12-1.

Stellar Six

Six programs enter the FHSAA playoffs unbeaten, including a pair who are unbeaten and untied.

St. Johns Bartram Trail (16-0-2, 7A); Palm Beach Gardens Benjamin (12-0-1, 3A); Palm Harbor University (16-0-0, 7A); Bradenton Lakewood Ranch (17-0-1, 7A); Merritt Island Edgewood (15-0-0, 3A); Loxahatchee Seminole Ridge (16-0-2, 6A).

Bartram Trail and Edgewood enter the postseason unbeaten for the second straight season. Benjamin beat Edgewood in a Class 3A regional final last year.

The two might are on a collision course for the Region 2-3A final on Valentine’s Day.

Regardless of how their season ends, this has been an unquestionably successful season for the sextet.