BY GENE NARDI
The Palm Beach Central High School girls varsity soccer team made history Wednesday, Jan. 30, upsetting two-time defending state champion and nationally ranked St. Thomas Aquinas 3-2 at a home game to capture the school’s first regional title.
The win sent the Broncos into their first appearance in the Class 5A state tournament. Palm Beach Central traveled to Miami on Friday, Feb. 1 to play Miami Lourdes in the state semifinals, falling 4-0 to the Bobcats.
The loss ended the Broncos’ run for their first state title.
It didn’t take long for Palm Beach Central (21-2) to get the Raiders’ attention in regional title match. In the 11th minute, a St. Thomas defender committed a foul in the penalty area, which set up the first score. Michelle Nilsen sent in an accurate ball to give the Broncos an early 1-0 lead. Minutes later, St. Thomas tied the score at 1-1. The game remained deadlocked for the rest of the half. A big blow to the Broncos also came at the half, when star striker Yulie Lopez could not return to the game after a late first-half ankle injury.
In the 51st minute, the Raiders took the lead 2-1. The Broncos would bend but not break as St. Thomas dominated possession and peppered the goal. Palm Beach Central goalkeeper Haley Brunner came up big with 20 saves on the night. In the 68th minute, Palm Beach Central’s Amber Agrillo saw an opening on the left side, worked the ball with her speed around the St. Thomas defender and shot a low ball that snuck by the St. Thomas keeper for the equalizer.
The game continued into two 10-minute overtime periods after regulation with the “golden goal” rule in affect. After neither team could find the back of the net in overtime, the game was decided on penalty kicks.
Yulie Lopez managed to return to take the first shot and found the back of the net. Agrillo, Nilsen and Andrea Delgado all hit their shots to give the Broncos their first Class 5A regional title.
Agrillo’s winning goal sent the Palm Beach Central student body from the stands to the field in celebration, while St. Thomas players watched in shock as their season ended.
“The girls continued to rise up and play tonight,” Palm Beach Central girls soccer coach Tom Dawkins said. “This is why we play, and this is why we coach — you never know what’s going to happen. God bless ’em.”