Regional quarterfinals kick off Feb. 6 and Feb. 13

By Official Florida FC

The 2024 FHSAA girls soccer playoff field was set on Friday afternoon.

 All six reigning state champions are in this year’s playoffs, though one program narrowly earned the right to retain their title.

Here are our thoughts ahead of the postseason.

Return to Glory

Ponte Vedra ended the season as the No. 1 team in the state, the third straight year a St. Johns County program was the top team in Florida entering the playoffs.

Ponte Vedra co-captains Carson Beliakoff, left, and Audrey Johnson, right, are both four-year members of Ponte Vedra’s girls soccer program.
(Photo by Will Brown, Official Florida FC)

The Sharks (17-1-1) will not be able to ease into the postseason. Reigning Class 6A champion Gulf Breeze will head to St. Johns County to face Ponte Vedra for a Region 1-6A quarterfinal.

Gulf Breeze (5-7-4) is winless in its last five matches. But, the Dolphins played the toughest schedule in Florida this year, which includes a 4-0 loss to Ponte Vedra on Veterans Day.

Recent years have shown to never assume what will happen in the Region 1-6A tournament. A fact longtime Ponte Vedra girls soccer coach Dave Silverberg knows well.

Florida’s Unbeatens

Of the 542 girls soccer programs in Florida, only six enter the postseason unbeaten.

In Class 3A, the Benjamin School (16-0-0) completed its second straight unbeaten regular season. The Buccaneers lost in the state semifinals to Davie University School on penalty kicks. This year, Benjamin is fourth overall in the state and conceded just six goals.

Florida’s only other unbeaten and untied program is Miami Edison. The Red Raiders (14-0-0) have yet to leave Dade County this season. And, they won’t in the regional semifinals as they host Somerset Academy South Homestead. Somerset Academy (13-1) conceded its first goal of the season in a 1-0 loss in the District 16-3A semifinals.

The other unbeatens are all in Class 7A.

Third-seeded Lake Mary (14-0-4) hosts unbeaten Clermont East Ridge (14-0-2) in a Region 1-7A quarterfinal.

Fourth-seed Oviedo Hagerty (13-0-3) hosts Jacksonville Atlantic Coast in a separate Region 1-7A semifinal.

Atlantic Coast leaders Evangelina Arocho (10), Gaby Rourke (15) and Taliah Brooks (4) have helped the Stingrays to an 11-3-3 record. (Photo by Will Brown, Official Florida FC)

Down south, Weston Cypress Bay (14-0-4) is producing another stellar season.

The Lightning have been dominant in the Class 7A playoffs against schools that are not located on Longleaf Pine Parkway. Cypress Bay has won 12 playoff matches over the last four seasons, but have been tripped up time and again by St. Johns County powerhouses Bartram Trail and Creekside. Cypress Bay begins this year’s playoff journey against Pembroke Pines Flanagan.

Sunshine State’s Best

Springstead’s Ava Kanaar is the state’s leading scorer this season with 67 goals and 16 assists in 21 matches.

Kanaar has scored in every match she played this season. She helped the Eagles win the District 4-6A title on Jan. 31 to help Springstead improve to 18-3-1.

Their reward for a district title is a long trip to Niceville in the Region 1-6A playoffs.

If the Eagles look to soar in the state playoffs, like they did in 2022 when they lost in penalty kicks in the Region 2-5A final, the Campbell signee may need to take her shooting boots with her to Niceville.

Niceville (14-2-4) has won 12 of its matches via a clean sheet. Niceville is 2-2-4 when it allows a goal, its two wins were a pair of mercy rule victories over Crestview. If Kanaar and the Eagles can nick one past the Eagles, anything is possible.

Who will shock the state?

Most years, a keen observer can predict who will kickoff at the state final and be accurate more times than not.

In most of Florida’s six classifications, there appear to be two or three programs who are a few yards ahead their peers. But, regular season success does not always guarantee a trophy lift at the end of February.

Lakeland Christian appears destined to play Orange Park St. Johns Country Day in the Class 2A final for the second straight year. The Vikings are seeking their fourth straight state championship, but have a lot of new faces from the squad that ended St. Johns’ historic 12-year run atop Florida’s smallest classification.

In Class 3A, Merritt Island Edgewood may be the only program standing between Montverde or Benjamin running away with the trophy.

Archbishop McCarthy’s Jordyn Pitter, knocks the ball upfield during the Maverick’s Class 5A state final on Feb. 28, 2020. (Photo by Will Brown)

The only classification without a clear favorite is Class 5A.

Reigning state champion Plantation American Heritage (11-3-1), 2022 state champion Cape Coral Mariner (18-3) and 2020 state champion Archbishop McCarthy (15-1-3) are all formidable. But, programs like Naples, North Fort Myers and Pembroke Pines Charter all have enough quality and experience to win their region.

St. Johns Beachside (10-5-2) doesn’t have the experience, but the Barracudas have played a daunting schedule to earn the No. 2 seed in Region 1-5A. It also  means there is no one in their path who will intimidate them.