Wellington High School’s girls varsity soccer team is in pursuit of reaching its season-long goal of playing in the Florida High School Athletic Association’s (FHSAA) Class 7A state championship finale next month in DeLand.
That goal remains a distinct possibility, now that the Wolverines won the Class 7A, District 11 title on Wednesday, Jan. 31. Wellington soundly defeated Palm Beach Central High School in the district final, 6-1. It was a rematch of last year’s district final, which was won by Wellington, 4-0.
This year’s district final was played at Royal Palm Beach High School. In the game, Wellington’s six goals were scored by five players — Sofia Alonso, Rebecca Quintero, Hannah Pahl, Bianca Knight and Jordan Fernandez. Pahl had two goals against Palm Beach Central.
“It was a team effort tonight, as it has been all season,” said Wellington head coach Ashley Parrett, whose team’s record improved to 13-3. “For us this season, you never know who is going to step up, make a big play and help us win a game.”
According to Parrett, the squad has been unified this season, and it showed in the district final.
“Our team chemistry has been amazing throughout the season,” she added. “Our players have adopted one another as family. We are playing with great confidence. We have been capitalizing on many opportunities throughout the season, which we must continue to do.”
In the game, Wellington never trailed. Early on, Wellington took a 1-0 lead when Quintero scored on a long-range strike from outside the penalty box. In the latter part of the first half, Alonso scored as she headed the ball into the net following a cross from Knight. Palm Beach Central’s Alexia Hansen scored her team’s lone goal late in the first half. Wellington led 2-1 at the half.
Early in the second half, Pahl scored the first of her two goals when she struck the ball from outside the penalty area over the outstretched arms of Bronco goalkeeper, Melissa Bretz. That gave the Wolverines a 3-1 cushion. In the last 20 minutes, Wellington scored three more times. Knight scored when she headed home a cross. Then, Pahl and Fernandez finished off the scoring with precision finishes with their right feet.
Palm Beach Central concluded its season with a record of 8-6-1.
For Wellington, its next post-season game will be the Class 7A, Region 3 quarterfinal, which will be played Tuesday, Feb. 13. As the district tournament winner, Wellington will host Boca Raton’s Olympic Heights High School (21-3). The match will start at 7 p.m.
In the days leading up to the game against Olympic Heights, Parrett said her team will work on staying healthy and maintaining their competitive focus. Right now, four straight wins are what Wellington needs in order to reach the state championship game.
“As district champs, we must not get complacent,” Parrett said. “We are also healthy, as we’ve been able to avoid any major injuries this season.”
According to Parrett, for her team to defeat Olympic Heights, Wellington’s players must be mentally sharp, physically ready and united as a team.
“To beat Olympic Heights, we are emphasizing the importance of mental toughness, finishing our opportunities and playing as one,” said Parrett, who also teaches math at WHS.
If Wellington defeats Olympic Heights, the Wolverines will host either Harmony High School or Treasure Coast High School on Friday, Feb. 16 in the regional semifinal. A victory in that match could set up a potential rematch against cross-county rival Boca Raton High School on Tuesday, Feb. 21 in the Region 3 final in Boca Raton. Wellington lost to Boca Raton 2-0 during this year’s regular season. The winner of the Region 3 final will advance to the Class 7A state final four in early March.
As district champs for the third straight year, this year’s team is focused on going further than the last two squads, which ended the season in the regionals. In 2022, Wellington lost 1-0 to Boca Raton in the regional final. In 2023, Wellington fell 2-1 to Treasure Coast in the regional semifinal.
The Wellington-Palm Beach Central District 11 tournament finale on Jan. 31 featured an all-female officiating crew. They were center referee Merissa Vault and her two assistant referees, Celestine Calpin and Bethany Higgins. According to Jose Da Silva of the Soccer Referees of Palm Beach County, it was the first time in the SRPBC’s history that an all-female crew had worked a district final match.
Seminole Ridge Earns State Playoff Bid — The girls varsity soccer team from Seminole Ridge High School also has postseason dreams. After a stellar regular season, where the Hawks posted an impressive 11-1-2 record, they stumbled in the first round of the Class 6A, District 8 tournament Monday, Jan. 29, falling 3-0 to William T. Dwyer High School. Despite an early exit from the district tournament, Seminole Ridge earned a bid into the state playoffs, based on the team’s strong ranking position, seeded third in Class 6A, Region 2.
Seminole Ridge will host the visiting Eagles from Lakeland’s George Jenkins High School (12-5-3) on Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. If the Hawks defeat the Eagles, they will advance to the regional semifinals on Friday, Feb. 16, which would mean either a road game at Oviedo High School or home game against Edgewater High School. A victory in the regional semifinals would propel Seminole Ridge to a berth in the Class 6A, Region 2 finals on Wednesday, Feb. 21.