BY GENE NARDI
The Wellington High School girls soccer team claimed the District 11-5A championship with a 2-0 win on Friday, Jan. 20, over rival Palm Beach Central High School. The tournament was hosted by Royal Palm Beach High School.
The Wolverines and the Broncos played to a 1-1 tie earlier in the season and had suspected they would see one another again in postseason play.
“They’re a quality team. They’re goalkeeper is amazing, and she kept them in the game,” Wellington coach Mike Kozlowski said. “It took a while, but once we broke through, the momentum finally came to our side.”
The first half concluded with the teams deadlocked at zero, but the Wolverines seemed to press most of the action and had more scoring opportunities. Credit has to go to a solid Bronco defense, and a stingy goalkeeper in Shianne Duplantis coming up with some big saves. Palm Beach Central had a few opportunities near the end of the first half but were unable to get by Wellington goalkeeper Alexa Kovi, who notched her 17th clean-sheet of the season.
The first 10 minutes of the second half began with the Wolverines (20-1-1) pressuring the Bronco defense often, but again, Palm Beach Central’s defense denied a Wellington ball finding the back of the net. In the 50th minute, the Wolverines finally broke through when Haley Jenkins fired a shot from the near side about 22 yards out that took a hard bounce over Duplantis and into the net. The score gave Wellington a 1-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, the Wolverines struck again; this time it was from a cross by Grace Langsam. Abigail Bryan connected with Langsam’s cross, driving the ball into the back of the net to extend Wellington’s lead to 2-0.
“Those two quick goals definitely got in their heads,” first-year Palm Beach Central coach Christina Mulhern said. “Wellington and Palm Beach Central is always a physical, physical game.”
The Broncos (13-2-2) battled back after the second Wellington goal. “Our starting goalkeeper gave a motivational speech at the water break, and that’s when you saw the transition,” Mulhern said. “It comes down to the girls standing on the field.”
Wellington managed to spread the ball effectively for the remainder of the game. The Broncos moved up a defender and pressured late, and nearly put one in toward the end that Kovi denied.
“We have to find the open spaces and serve it in,” Kozlowski said. “We knew their two center backs are really strong, so if we could get them to come out, we could whip it in behind them.”
Wellington won the district title two years ago but lost it to Park Vista High School last season in a penalty kick shootout. Last week’s 2-0 victory marks the Wolverines’ second district title in three seasons.
Wellington hosted Spanish River High School and Palm Beach Central traveled to Boca Raton for regional quarterfinal matches Thursday night, but results were not available by press time.
ABOVE: The 2017 District Champion Wellington Wolverines.