Top-ranked Spartans bounce back from early goal to top Bolles

Maybe St. Johns Country Day needed to give up a goal to break out of the deep freeze.

 

“We were definitely pressing early,” Spartans coach Mike Pickett said. “To give up the goal actually settled us down.”

Once the Spartans got settled, they never stumbled again - and now their winning streak is longer than ever.

Led by a pair of steady seniors, St. Johns Country Day roared back from an early deficit Thursday, beating Bolles 6-1 in a clash of girls soccer titans and extending their winning streak to 58 games.

Abbey Newton scored twice and Payton Crews netted her 100th career goal for the Spartans (14-0-0), ranked first in the country by USA Today, on a frigid night with field-level temperatures at 36 degrees by game’s end.

The familiar connection paid off for the pair, committed to LSU and TCU respectively, who also combined to strike the crossbar three times and create numerous other chances.

“Abbey and I read each other very well,” Crews said. “We’ve played together for so long.”

At first, it looked like the Bulldogs (10-4-1), the last team to keep St. Johns out of the win column on Nov. 10, 2015, might have a shot to end the Spartans’ streak.

Despite missing two key midfielders, Bolles seized the early edge when freshman Isabel Kimberly scored a lunging header in the 11th minute.

But St. Johns replied seconds after the kickoff. Newton launched defender Kirsten Pavlisko down the left, where she cut the ball back and set up Crews to reach triple figures for her Spartans career.

That still wasn’t enough to put the Spartans in front, though. With Bulldogs midfielder Cami Dade standing firm in the center, breaking up the Spartans’ attacks and setting up threats for Olivia Candelino on the counter, Pickett decided to try a tactical switch.

St. Johns dropped striker Loustau deeper into midfield and linked Newton and Crews in a high-speed duo that has played on each title-winning team during the Spartans’ state championship streak.

“When we went up top, it just picked up the game,” Crews said. “We were able to attack faster, and it gave us a little bit of confidence.”

Those two connected on the go-ahead goal before halftime, with Newton slicing between two defenders for a sharp finish. Newton then added her second to begin the second half, dribbling through a Bolles defender and powering a shot into the net.

From there, the floodgates opened, and St. Johns pulled away on late goals from Loustau, Alisa Detlefsen and Kamryn Towers. They’ve now outscored opponents 92-8 this season.

The Spartans now have only five more regular season games before beginning the district playoffs, where they’re a heavy favorite to march toward their seventh consecutive Class 1A championship. That would tie the FHSAA record of St. Thomas Aquinas, winner of seven straight from 1993 to 1999.

Next time, though, the Spartans would rather not have to play from behind - something that’s happened in three of the last five games.

“This team is very resilient,” Pickett said. “Every time we’ve gotten down this year, against Bishop Moore, against Merritt Island… it seems to wake them up. But we’ve got to quit doing that, because once we get into the playoffs, that’s dangerous.”

 

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