MSD women’s soccer team looks back on their successful season and deep playoff run after their loss in the state semifinals

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One Last Huddle After the Eagles exited their post-game huddle, in which they reflected upon their final game and successful season, the players group together for a team photo. Photo courtesy of Calista McCausland.

Reece Gary and David Lopez

One Last Huddle After the Eagles exited their post-game huddle, in which they reflected upon their final game and successful season, the players group together for a team photo. Photo courtesy of Calista McCausland.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas women’s varsity soccer team has reached the end of their season after 12 matches and reaching state-level playoffs once again.

After the 2019-2020 season, the Eagles lost many seniors who were crucial to the team, with a few of their top goal scorers not available for the 2020-2021 season. However, the team propelled forward as they worked with their new and returning players to build great chemistry that ultimately brought them to a deep playoff run.

On Monday, Jan. 4, the Stoneman Douglas women’s soccer team prepared for their season opening game against Pembroke Pines. Not only did the team ready themselves for that game, but also for many games to come during their outstanding 2021 season. 

With COVID-19 continuing its spread, whether or not the 2021 soccer season would be completed was unknown to players, coaches, and fans. As many games and seasons had been previously canceled this school year, extra precautions were taken with hopes of having a full season. 

Due to the uncertainty that COVID-19 brought to the team, the Eagles were determined to win every game they could. Additionally, the stakes were raised even higher after finding out that the season would be shortened to a limited number of games, with no assurance of playoffs.

Nonetheless, the Lady Eagles were able to play every game without any COVID-19 related cancellations, which pleased everyone, including the seniors looking to play for MSD for the last time. 

The Eagles’ preparation for the season allowed them to become a prominent competitor in the district from the start, winning their first three games against Pembroke Pines, Fort Lauderdale, and West Broward. 

Although the Eagles’ offense was evidently strong, their defense was a key factor towards earning their 3-0 record to start the season. Not only did the Eagles keep their opponents’ possessions to a strict limit in each game, but the defense allowed just one goal throughout this dominating stretch. 

“This team takes every chance to play, and they work their butts off,” Coach McKenzie Malone said. “Because of this, we have been very successful.”

After the stretch of wins, on Tuesday, Jan. 5, the Lady Eagles played an exhibition match where MSD’s varsity team played the junior varsity team. This game served as the varsity team’s senior night, where midfielder Chloe Rogers (4), defender Francesca Lozano (7), forward Mia Englebart (10), midfielder Emily Burke (14), defender Victoria Alvarez (21), and midfielder Jordan Carey (24) were celebrated for their final year with the Eagles.

“I still remember attending senior night when I was a freshman, so it was weird to be the seniors about to graduate this time! Senior night was a great time to get together as the MSD soccer community and reflect on our past years playing for the soccer team,” Englebart said.

With the Eagles coming off a three-win streak, along with their exciting senior night, there seemed to be no stopping the team’s momentum.

However, the Eagles’ undefeated record unfortunately came to a close after their loss in an away matchup against North Broward Prep on Wednesday, Jan. 13. The Eagles did not create many chances and failed to contain North Broward, conceding multiple goals in the second half to seal the Eagles defeat.

The 2-0 loss was a chance to regroup for the team as they had 2 weeks of practice before their next game. They would step onto the field again on Tuesday, Jan. 26, with a third straight away match against the Cooper City Cowboys.

Moving forward, the Eagles regained their momentum to gain a victory against Cooper City. Goals by Rogers, midfielder Layla Segelnick (15) and Alvarez propelled the Eagles to a 4-2 win. 

With only one more match before the beginning of the playoffs, the Eagles sought to keep up their positive progress with another match away from home. On Thursday, Jan. 28, the Eagles had their final regular season game against the Cardinal Gibbons Chiefs. 

Once again, a successful opponent was able to stifle the Eagles attack and keep the team away from a goal as the Chiefs walked away with a 1-0 win against the Eagles. This defeat left the Eagles with a respectable 4-2 record before entering the playoffs.

“Our team performed really well and with a lot of heart throughout the entire season,” Chloe Rogers said. “We did amazing things.”

At this point, the team had to prepare for new challenges as district level playoffs came only a week after their loss against Cardinal Gibbons. The district playoffs would be hosted at Coral Glades High School, looking to continue their long streak of advancing past the district round. 

“We were glad our season was not over and that we got to spend another week together. We were determined to make it further than we had gone the year before and we ended up accomplishing that goal,” defender Calista McCausland (6) said. 

After the week of preparation, the Eagles faced the Coral Springs Colts on Thursday, Feb, 4. This game was the District Quarterfinals match, and the winner would be facing Coral Glades High School.

The match ended 8-0, with Eagles attacker Molly Conn (12) scoring three goals on her own and several other players contributing to the lopsided victory for the Eagles. 

The Eagles had progressed to the District Semifinals, playing the Coral Glades Jaguars on Monday, Feb. 8. 

As the game kicked off at 5 p.m., it seemed the Eagles would once again be walking away with an assured victory. After leading 2-0 at halftime and pressing forward into the Jaguars defense even further, goals from Lozano and midfielder Alexis Reigel (23) gave the Eagles a commanding 4-0 win. 

The district playoffs finals would come soon after, with a match against the Park Vista Cobras being in the way of the Eagles reaching the regional playoffs. 

As with many teams in their district, the Eagles scored early on and controlled the game from start to finish. After two goals from Englebart and one from Burke, the Eagles were able to claim a 3-1 victory and book a spot in the Regional Playoffs. 

MSD hosted the Regional Playoffs, with the Eagles kicking off their first regional on Friday, Feb. 19 against the Boca Raton Bobcats. 

The match went back and forth, eventually ending regular time with a score of 2-2 and going into overtime. The game eventually went to penalties, where the Eagles scored 4 of their 5 shots to advance to the Regional Finals match.

“The regional semi-finals against Boca HIgh was my best game. I was highly motivated to play against a rival team and to have the chance to advance to the regional finals. I challenged every ball that came my way, and I went into tackles hard. I was doing what was best for my team in order to win that game,” Burke said.

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, the Eagles anticipated the Regional Final against Vero Beach High School, where a victory would grant the team another trip to state-level playoffs.

“My favorite game by far this season was our regional final against Vero Beach High School. Our team came out to play and not one person wasn’t ready to take home the title of being regional champions,” Rogers said.

Once again, the teams played a very even game, leading to a tied score of 0-0 and eventually extra time. A penalty shootout took place, one shot being scored by Emily Burke, which resulted in a success as the Eagles proceeded to win the Regional Finals at their home stadium. 

“We took the title, and showed each other our true character,” Burke said. “We worked extremely hard and played our bets against a very talented team. This game meant a lot to me because it was my first time winning regionals and advancing to the state semifinals. Our team played with so much heart that game. Scoring my penalty kick was a feeling I will never forget.”

Finally, the Eagles once again reached the state playoffs and would play a state semifinals match against the Cypress Bay Lightning. 

The game against Cypress Bay on Friday, Feb. 26, was a change of pace for the Eagles. They were forced to defend much more and the game was tied 1-1 with a few minutes remaining.

The lightning hit a shot off the crossbar and landed near the goal line, which was contested by the Eagles players as they argued with the referee, saying the ball never crossed the line and therefore was not a goal. The referee ruled it a goal, giving Cypress Bay a 2-1 lead which they kept until the end of the game. 

“We were playing against a higher level team. They were skillful, which made me bring out my skills and create better plays than I have in any other game. This game was played with a lot of heart because I wanted to bring our team into state finals,” Rogers said.

The state semifinals turned out to be the final stop for the Eagles, as the loss capped off a season that started off with low expectations and ended with many successful matches for the team. 

“Overall, we had an amazing season. We were district champions, regional champions, and we made it to the state semifinals. Our team worked incredibly hard and fought until the very end. I’m very proud of our team and what we accomplished this year. I am proud to finish my senior year with such a great experience,” Burke said.

With the 2020-2021 season wrapped, the MSD women’s varsity soccer team looks forward to building another winning team and returning to the late stages of the playoffs in the coming seasons.