Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Defense Clears Way to Final Four; Fleming Island, Ponte Vedra, St. Johns CD Play in State Semis Friday

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Defense Clears Way to Final Four; Fleming Island, Ponte Vedra, St. Johns CD Play in State Semis Friday

Article excerpt

Byline: Francine Frazier

Soccer defenders know their names won't often show up in a box score.

But one statistic they can take pride in is a zero in the opponent's score column.

The three area girls soccer teams remaining in Friday's state semifinals - Fleming Island, Ponte Vedra and St. Johns Country Day - have plenty to be proud of defensively. None of them has allowed a goal in the playoffs.

"The person who scores the goal gets the credit, but the pressure's on the defense," Ponte Vedra coach Dave Silverberg said. "If you shut them out, it's hard to lose."

One of the most impressive defensive stats belongs to Fleming Island (21-0-2), which has allowed only one goal, posting 22 shutouts.

"The defense, they're just good," Golden Eagles coach Darrell Ivey said. "They know how to read each other well. They communicate."

Ivey said his most vocal defenders are sophomore Katherine Eifert and senior keeper Katie Nimitz. Taylor Berry, Taylor North and Sara Urbano round out the backfield for Fleming Island, which faces host Lakeland George Jenkins in Class 4A on Friday.

Nimitz has needed only 29 saves in her 22 shutouts, but Ivey said that's a deceiving stat.

"Sometimes she'll come out and she gets them before they get deep into the box," he said. "She doesn't get credit for those [as saves], but she's cut it off before the shot even happens."

St. Johns Country Day coach Mike Pickett, whose Spartans (22-1) travel to Lakeland Christian on Friday, said cutting off the opponent's attack begins well before the match starts.

"The first thing is you have to know the other team's personalities and what they bring to the table," he said. "Once you figure out who their best players are and how they play, you formulate a plan for how to stop that."

Pickett said Lakeland Christian boasts one of the most dangerous offenses his team has faced, and his defense - led by junior keeper Kendall Perkins and senior Natalie Torres - will be the key to whether the Spartans earn a shot to defend their Class 1A title. …

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