- February 11, 2020
Heidi Michaels started the game on the bench and ended it leaping out of her seat, celebrating the save of the game.
In between, the junior midfielder scored the go-ahead goal to help the Flagler Palm Coast girls soccer team defeat New Smyrna Beach 2-1 in a first-round Five Star Conference Tournament game Saturday, Jan. 7, at the Ormond Beach Sports Complex.
The FPC boys team gave up four second-half goals to fall to Spruce Creek, 5-2.
The Bulldogs’ girls team (11-4-1) advanced to the tournament semifinals. But the road stopped there as Spruce Creek defeated FPC 5-1 on Tuesday Jan. 10.
“Heidi was a call-up from the JV team,” FPC coach Pete Hald said of Michaels. “She didn’t start, but she got in there, worked hard.”
Michaels, playing in just her fourth varsity game of the season, came up from her defensive midfield position, touched the ball away from a defender and scored with 2:32 left in the first half to put FPC ahead 2-1.
“On that particular play, she kept pressuring the defender, even though she’s a defensive mid,” Hald said. “The defender made a mistake, and she just slotted one to the far post.”
Savannah O’Grady scored FPC’s first goal on a free kick outside the 18-yard box.
“It just kind of bobbled on the ground and (the goalkeeper) didn’t get to it,” O’Grady said. “But a goal’s a goal. I’ll take it.”
“That’s exactly what she needed to do,” Hald said of O'Grady's 11th goal of the season. “A low, hard driven ball and made the keeper make the save.”
“Natalie’s a superstar. She definitely comes up big in the big games.”
— SAVANNAH O'GRADY on FPC goalkeeper Natalie Neal
Natalie Neal, FPC’s freshman goalkeeper, made a couple of key saves in the final minutes to preserve the lead. Her leaping save with 1:13 left started the celebration.
“Everyone was out of their seats, and everyone was screaming (when Neal made the save),” Michaels said.
“Natalie’s a superstar,” O’Grady added. “She definitely comes up big in the big games.”
Neal said high shots have given her trouble this year, but this one she reached and tipped over the crossbar.
“That was scary,” Neal confessed. “Normally the shots that go over my head, I time them wrong, and they go in. But I timed that one perfectly. I got scared because one of the girls started running at me, but I made the save.”
Neal had left the game for a few minutes in the first half after getting stepped on during a collision. New Smyrna Beach (3-6) scored on a long ball over substitute keeper Kaitlyn Holley’s head.
Holley was FPC’s keeper last season, but she has been a valuable addition at right back this year, Hald said, while Neal has been solid in the net, allowing 12 goals and making 57 saves in 15 games.
“Kaitlyn hasn’t been playing much goalkeeping, and she has been playing awesome at right back,” Hald said. “Maybe I should have given Kaitlyn a little more time in the goal in other games just in case this happened.”
Hald was pleased with Neal and the defense but said the Bulldogs had gotten away from possessing the ball late in the game the way they did in the first half.
“That gave them numerous opportunities,” Hald said. “New Smyrna got the ball a lot in the last 20 minutes.”
At halftime, it appeared FPC’s boys Five Star Conference game against Spruce Creek could go either way, but the Hawks quickly broke open a 1-1 tie to defeat the Bulldogs 5-2 on Jan. 7 at the Ormond Beach Sports Complex.
The Hawks advanced to the conference semifinals.
“We did all the good work in the first half to get back in the game to make it 1-1, but we have to collectively learn to not make the same mistake over and over again.”
— RAMTIN AMIRI, FPC boys soccer coach
“We came out too flat-footed and conceded three goals in the first six minutes of the half,” FPC coach Ramtin Amiri said. “At that point we were just chasing the game. We did all the good work in the first half to get back in the game to make it 1-1, but we have to collectively learn to not make the same mistake over and over again. All their goals in the second half were set pieces or balls into the box, and we continued to let them get on it unmarked.”
FPC’s Jace Zecca scored with 18:09 left in the first half to tie the score at 1-1. Mikhail Zysek scored the Bulldogs' second goal with 2:32 left off a rebound shot.
“(The players) kept working. We did good to score twice,” Amiri said. “But you cannot concede five goals in a game.”
The Bulldogs (8-6) host Beachside at 7:20 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 11, and then they will be back home on Friday, Jan. 12, for senior night against St. Joseph. Game time is 6 p.m.