Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Young Defense Sparks SJCD; Stingy Spartans Have 20 Shutouts Entering the State Semifinal

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Young Defense Sparks SJCD; Stingy Spartans Have 20 Shutouts Entering the State Semifinal

Article excerpt

Byline: FRANCINE KING

Rolling through the girls soccer regional playoffs with a series of 8-0 scores tends to draw attention to a team's high-powered offense.

But St. Johns Country Day coach Mike Pickett knows those zeros are special, too - and so do the Spartans' defenders. They set a school record this season with 20 shutouts in 29 games, including five in a row through district and regional play.

The Spartans (25-1-3) hope to add a couple of more shutouts before their season ends this week. They face St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep (15-4-3) in a Class 2A state semifinal at 2 p.m. today at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. The winner advances to Thursday's state championship game.

Despite breezing through the playoffs thus far, Pickett said he's confident this year's Spartans are ready for the challenge of the final four. Particularly after playing - and shutting out - many quality teams in the regular season.

SJCD blanked Class 4A regional finalist Bishop Kenny, Class 3A regional finalist Bolles, Class 6A regional semifinalist Gainesville Buchholz and a pair of reigning state champions: Orlando Lake Highland Prep (3A) and Delray Beach American Heritage (2A).

What makes those shutouts more remarkable is that three-fourths of the Spartans' starting defenders aren't in high school yet. Eighth-graders Annie Bobbitt and Maddie Hartley and Pickett's daughter, Carson, a seventh-grader, are each playing their first year of varsity soccer for St. Johns.

Despite the youth of his defense, Mike Pickett said his backfield has never been faster.

"One thing we were looking to do was to make our defense quicker," Pickett said. "A couple of girls had to take different roles to make it work."

One of those girls was Molly Richardson. The senior had played forward or midfield her three previous years on the varsity and entered this season expecting to do the same. …

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