Home Sports 2-2A semifinal: Iris Gardner’s 70th minute goal sends Jupiter Christian past Pine School

2-2A semifinal: Iris Gardner’s 70th minute goal sends Jupiter Christian past Pine School

2-2A semifinal: Iris Gardner’s 70th minute goal sends Jupiter Christian past Pine School

HOBE SOUND — A natural rivalry between Jupiter Christian and Pine School has developed over a span of four seasons with the Knights often getting the better of the Eagles in the big matches.

On Friday, a grueling battle was decided by a 70th minute goal from Jupiter Christian sophomore Iris Gardner that gave the Eagles a 2-1 Region 2-2A semifinal road victory in the third meeting between the two teams this season.

After the Knights emerged as the District 8-2A champions on Jan. 31 with a thrilling 3-2 victory that gave them a leg up on Jupiter Christian in the regional bracket when it came to who would have home field in a win-or-go-home situation, the battle between the two teams was as fierce as one would expect.

Jupiter Christian's Iris Gardner heads the ball against Pine School during the District 8-2A championship match on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023 in Jupiter. Pine School won the match 3-2.

Pine School had defeated Jupiter Christian for district titles three of the last four seasons, adding another element of competitive spirit for the Eagles to capture being a road underdog on paper as the third seed.

With the Eagles making sure Pine School eighth grade scoring dynamo Giovanna Waksman was under the watchful eye of center-back Juliana Tibbs at all times, the two midfield-backlines from both teams were masterful at sniffing out any danger in a scoreless first half.

Tibbs had the best chance of the first 40 minutes, clattering the crossbar on a long-range free kick effort in the 31st minute for the Eagles (14-3-1).

The match became stretched for both teams after halftime and it was Pine’s leading goal scorer who put the Knights (14-2-1) on the board first.

Waksman, who entered with 52 goals on the season including a hat trick in the 8-2A final, took down a deflected drop ball kick from Keziah Anderson and chipped Jupiter Christian goalkeeper Sabrina Callejas in the 52nd minute to put Pine School up 1-0.

Eight minutes later, another youngster made her mark as Eagle seventh grader Jahpetria Charles, who scored a goal in the 8-2A final, controlled a long throw-in from Kenzie Laysock and wriggled free out in front of goal and uncorked a perfectly placed shot with her left foot from the top of the 18-yard box that nestled into the Pine goal to square the match.

Pine School goalkeeper Justina Southern had to make a nifty double save shortly after off a long free kick sent in by Tibbs that was spit out into the path of Charles right out in front of goal to keep the match tied.

Unfortunately for Southern minutes later, what appeared to be a harmless shot from distance by Gardner hugged the ground and found a way through into the net that put the Eagles on top with 10 minutes to go.

Waksman did her best to try and make some magic for her team and got off two strong shots within minutes of one another that were on target but Callejas, a seventh grader who limped for almost the entire second half after an early collision, was equal to the task with two strong saves that stood as Pine’s last opportunities they would get for the match.

Callejas made her coach Sarah Cohen, a former college goalie in her first year as Jupiter Christian’s head coach, proud of the focus she maintained while clearly being hampered in the key stretches of the match.

“To be in the seventh grade with so much mental fortitude and grit, I know how much of a difference a leader in the net can make in the performance, the composure and the confidence of every player on the field,” Cohen said. “I think it’s a game changer and she’s young and growing but already the confidence, the competence and the maturity she has displayed has definitely helped our team. It all flows together when we can trust the girl in the net and she is a force.”

The defeat for the Knights was the second straight season in which the team lost in the regional semifinals by a goal as last year Circle Christian nipped Pine School 3-2.

Doubling their playoff win total with their second straight regional quarterfinal win earlier in the week, Knights head coach Kelly Hilton-Green couldn’t complain with the performance his girls gave to him despite coming up short.

“They took their chances and we didn’t quite grab ours but that’s what happens at this level,” Hilton-Green said. “With them this year, you have one win, one loss, one tie and one goal either way would have changed all sorts of seasons. Overall this year, I think our team got better and we’ve gotten to a point where we’ve got to get over the next hurdle.”

Jupiter Christian will tackle the region’s top seed Lakeland Christian on Feb. 14 for a spot in the state semifinals and will aim to give the Viking defense, which has allowed only seven goals all season some issues.

For Cohen, bringing the Eagles to a regional semifinal for the first time in their history in her first year coaching has already been a success and wants her team to stick to their process to give it their best shot next week.

“We’ll prepare for any team the same, in playoff games, anything can happen,” Cohen said. “With any team we play, we try to play the same way and we’re consistent with our competitive play and our character and if we do those things, win or lose I’ll be proud.”


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