After a 1-4 start on the season, Key West High School girls soccer coach Justin Martin said his team would turn things around in the new year and it appears his prediction was correct.
On Friday, Jan. 7, at the Key West High School Back Yard, the Lady Conchs played their best game — thus far — to pull off a 1-1 tie against St. Brendan, the top team in District 16-4A and No. 10 in Class 4A.
“I remember that conversation,” said Martin after the very physical match with the Sabres. “That’s the No. 1 team in our district and to come out here and tie them says a lot for the girls. I cannot be prouder of them. Across the board, every player who touched the field tonight was outstanding. I am thoroughly impressed.”
In the first half, St. Brendan controlled the tempo, but the Lady Conchs’ defense held their own as neither team could put the ball in the back of the net for a scoreless tie. Martin made a few adjustments at halftime, which kept the Sabres out of the goal until the 72nd minute.
On offense, the Conchs had plenty of opportunities to score but could not capitalize.
Key West had a chance to go up 1-0 in the first half on a direct kick after Sabres goalie Meagan Alvarez sent Sessoms airborne. The kick by senior midfielder Izzy Walterson sailed the ball over the goal to keep it scoreless.
Early in the second half, Key West took a 1-0 advantage on a penalty kick by junior midfielder Vicky Daley-Willy.
“Vicky is our No. 1 penalty kicker,” said Martin. “She has ice-water running through her veins. She doesn’t let the moment get to her.”
The Lady Conchs defense, along with sophomore goalie Tegan Lavin, kept the Sabres out of the net, but with 8:19 left in the game, St. Brendan tied the game on a direct kick.
Lavin finished the game with 15 saves and the defense was near flawless.
“As a sophomore, Tegan has come a long way. Coach (Scott) Paul has been working with her. She’s got a bright future ahead of her,” said Martin. “She is an outstanding athlete and fearless in the net.”
The coach said they will concentrate on finishing as they have a tough schedule over the final month of the regular season.
“We had a couple one-on-ones with their keeper, but we’re going to work on our attacking the net as we go forward,” he stated. “We’re focusing on our chemistry up front. Really that’s all the thing we’re lacking. The defense played outstanding. From the opening play, we didn’t allow a goal. Offensively, we’ve got to put the ball away. It’s little things we have got to work on.”
Martin said one of their biggest improvements has been to cut down on corner kick goals by opposing squads.
“At the first of the season, we counted how many goals were scored against us on corner kicks. We got up to six in four games,” explained the coach. “Since we burned that into the girls’ heads, they have not allowed a corner kick goal. It has been an outstanding improvement.”
The Lady Conchs (4-6-1) were scheduled to host Monroe County rival Coral Shores (5-3-3) on Monday with a pair of tough matches to finish off the week. On Wednesday, they are slated to play the South Florida Heat (15-2-2) on the road and finish off the week at home against Lemon Bay High (9-4-1), which topped Key West 4-1 back in November.
“I’m super impressed how far they’ve come,” said Martin.