As the center back on Matanzas High’s girls soccer team, junior Eva Servello had mixed feelings about her team’s 8-0 victory against Mainland on Thursday, Nov. 9.
The victory was great, she said, but … “I like getting touches on the ball.”
There weren’t many touches for the Pirates’ defenders as Matanzas kept the ball in its attacking half of the field most of the contest. The game ended by mercy rule less than 10 minutes into the second half when freshman Siena Gutierrez scored the Pirates' eighth goal on a free kick.
Through their first two games this season, the Pirates (2-0) have shown they are a much more explosive team than they have been in recent years. Last year, Matanzas went 1-8-3 and scored a total of seven goals. The Pirates matched that total in their season opener, defeating Jacksonville Englewood 7-0 on Nov. 8.
Their offense has been boosted by a group of newcomers. The Pirates have added five freshmen and two juniors, all of whom are experienced club players. Most of the newcomers are home-school students.
As young as this group is, they bring a lot of knowledge of the game. They have a good work ethic, good personalities and they’re all good people.”
— SCOTT CROOKE, Matanzas girls soccer coach
“As young as this group is, they bring a lot of knowledge of the game,” Matanzas coach Scott Crooke said. “They have a good work ethic, good personalities and they’re all good people. These girls came here because they knew what we wanted to build. It sure as heck wasn’t because of our winning streak.”
Junior Naomi Cordero and her sister, freshman Rebeka Cordero, are home schoolers who played soccer last year for First Baptist Christian Academy in Bunnell.
“We prayed about it,” Naomi Cordero said of their decision to join the Pirates.
Naomi Cordero and freshman Kaylin Henthorn each scored two goals against Mainland. Freshman Isabella Hopkins and sophomore Emma Skinner, a home-school student who moved in from North Carolina, also scored. Skinner and Henthorn each had two assists. Junior Cassidy Simon was the only goal scorer in the game who was a member of the Pirates’ team last year.
Servello has been with the Pirates for three seasons. She believes Matanzas can make the playoffs this year for the first time in her high school career.
“My freshman year, we had a pretty good team with a lot of seniors,” she said. “Last year, we won one game. This year, I want to make it to regionals. We have a lot of good freshmen and some juniors coming in who are really helping. We have a lot of offense.”
Even though the players are new, they are meshing well as a team.
“We’re definitely working together,” Naomi Cordero said. “We’re connecting.”
“Our top and midfield are starting to communicate a lot better,” he said. “They’re very coachable girls. Defense was never something we worried about. It was always getting the ball in the final third and finishing. The way they’re playing off each other, playing the ball to the right space, everyone jiving together this early, if they keep putting in the work, how we'll look at the end of the season could be very positive.”
Mainland, meanwhile, was playing its first game of the season. The Bucs were 14-4 last year, but they lost several seniors. They were also missing two players who were preparing for the cross country regionals.
The Bucs’ leading scorer, forward Lauren Abrahams (25 goals last season), is back, but Servello limited her touches in the game.
“We have a strong junior class, but we’re in a rebuild,” said first-year head coach Mason McKenzie, who was an assistant coach with the Bucs last year. “Our defensive strategies were breaking down a little, but Matanzas has a good team. We play them at home (on Dec. 7), so we’re looking forward to the rematch.”
The Bucs’ home opener is Thursday, Nov. 16, against DeLand at 6 p.m. Matanzas plays at county rival Flagler Palm Coast on Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. FPC has an 11-game winning streak against Matanzas, with the Pirates scoring just three goals during that span. The Bulldogs defeated Lake Minneola 7-1 in their home opener on Nov. 11 to improve to 2-1.