Bartram Trail girls soccer coach Jen West didn’t doubt the Bears’ task facing national No. 1-ranked St. Johns Country Day. “Their midfield is the best I’ve seen around,” she said.
St. Johns proved it again.
That midfield, with a little help from a defender advancing from the back, made the difference in the Spartans’ 4-1 victory over Bartram Trail on Monday afternoon at Bear Stadium. The Spartans’ staggering streaks — 60 wins, 73 games unbeaten and 1,104 days without a loss — turned into 61, 74 and 1,105.
Abbey Newton, Payton Crews, Payton Walton and Alisa Detlefsen scored second-half goals for St. Johns (17-0-0), the top-ranked in the USA Today/United Soccer Coaches national poll and the holder of six consecutive Class 1A state championships.
But the Bears (10-3-3) didn’t go down easily, holding firm for 50 minutes with six saves from goalkeeper Julie Arciprete and a string of tackles by Taylor Radecki and Ella Dudley.
Then St. Johns found the key: Moving Detlefsen, a seasoned senior noted for her ball-striking talents, up from the back four to add creativity to a midfield that wasn’t converting possession into goals.
It paid off fast. Newton, the LSU-committed midfielder, dashed through three Bears and drove a hard low shot in the 51st minute for the 124th goal of her Spartans career.
Bartram Trail struck back at once to tie the score when Maddie DeFranco lunged to finish off a delivery from the left wing.
But in the 56th minute, St. Johns climbed back in front when Crews blasted a first-time shot from the right corner of the box.
The teams were originally scheduled to play last Friday, but soft field conditions forced a postponement. Late-season non-district contests often aren’t made up, but with both teams planning for potential playoff tests to come, this one was an exception.
“It was good to see how we compare and how we could handle their strengths,” West said. “Obviously, they’re strong all over the field.”
Every 80-minute stretch of top-class experience helps the Bears, who enter a brutally tough District 4-4A tournament next Monday. District foes include 2017 Class 4A runner-up Creekside, perennial power Fleming Island and a Nease squad ranked 16th in the nation by MaxPreps. Only two of those four can qualify for the playoffs.