By REID TUCKER
The Lady Seahawks soared in the final round of the District 1-2A soccer tournament, defeating a tough Pensacola Catholic squad 2-1 to lay claim to the school’s first district title since 2010.
South Walton was by far the dominant team on the night of Jan. 17, laying down a barrage of shots in no fewer than six unanswered attacks on the Lady Crusaders’ goal before Yomira Arrese scored on a penalty kick in the seventh minute of the first half. The Seahawks kept the edge through the break and then, four minutes into the second half, Annie Kallay scored goal No. 2 on another penalty kick for what looked to be an insurmountable lead. Pensacola Catholic’s forwards continued to struggle to get anything going on offense while the defenders and goalie had their work cut out for them as South Walton continued to hammer away.
Things got a little more interesting with 18 minutes left in the contest. The Lady Crusaders’ junior striker Tayler Kukes lobbed a shot over the outstretched hands of South Walton keeper Leslie Yanez from 20-plus yards out, with the ball floating into the back left of the net. The scoreboard now showing 2-1, it was South Walton’s turn to get busy on defense if the Lady Seahawks didn’t want to be denied top billing in the forthcoming regional playoffs.
Two minutes after Kukes’ score, Arrese put her fourth shot on the goal, but the direct kick was saved at seemingly the last possible instant after a bobble by the Catholic goalie. Meanwhile, Yanez had to make back-to-back diving saves of her own in the 35th and 36th minutes as the Lady Crusaders began picking up the pace as the game wore down to a close. Kallay and Maria de la Cruz sought to take some of the pressure off with less than five minutes to go, but both their shots went wide of the goal.
Injury struck both sides as one of the Crusaders suffered a bad leg cramp on the sideline, while Kallay collapsed with a rolled ankle in the 38th minute, delaying the game and giving Catholic a second wind in the closing minutes of the match. Catholic’s Ashlyn Adams put a shot on in the last minute of play but it juked wide right just before the goal, allowing Yanez to scoop it up. Shortly thereafter the final whistles blew and South Walton had earned its first district title in four years and a home match in the regional semi-finals.
The win was a reversal of fortunes from the sides’ first meeting of this season, when Catholic beat South Walton by a 3-1 score early last November.
Arrese led South Walton on offense with four shots and a goal, while Kallay came in a close second with three shots and a goal. Kaliegh Miller and de la Cruz combined for three shots, while Yanez made three timely saves on the night. Arrese ended the district season as the Lady Seahawks dominant scorer, accounting for 29 goals, while Kallay and Miller rounded out the podium with 19 goals and 17 goals, respectively, in 2013-2014.
By REID TUCKER