What a difference a week makes. After playing to a 0-0 tie at Walton High School on Jan. 8, the Port St. Joe girls soccer team scored three times in the second half to claim a 4-1 win over the Braves at Sam Cox Field this past Saturday, Jan. 15.
St. Joe, without the services of seniors Madelyn Gortemoller and Megan Saleh, had started the week with a 3-0 shutout loss to Class 4A Wakulla on Tuesday, Jan. 11. Saturday’s game turned out better for the Tiger Sharks.
Senior Rebecca Maddox, who missed the first game against Walton, got St. Joe off on the “right foot” early with a smash that sailed past Braves goalie Mallory Ferrell with barely two minutes gone into the contest.
With Gortemoller sidelined with a knee injury for the second game in a row, Maddox found herself blanketed by at least two Brave defenders for the remainder of the match.
“Being one of our seniors, one of our leaders, and one of our leading scorers, when she (Gortemoller) is out, it affects the play on the field,” said head coach Justin Gerlach. “The other ladies behind her are willing to step up and try to field that spot. We’re hoping (for) Maddie to rest and get well for districts and beyond.”
Gerlach thought Gortemoller could return against Rutherford on Tuesday, Jan. 18, slated as “senior night” for the girls.
Concerning the double teaming of Maddox, Gerlach said “Rebecca sticks out, so it’s not the first time she (has seen) multiple defenders.”
St. Joe also played the match without goalkeeper Saleh, who also missed her second game in a row, so Gerlach once again inserted seventh grader Brooke Peacock at the net.
Peacock, who recorded 18 saves in the recent loss to Wakulla, notched 14 more against the Braves, including a giant play at the 31:45 mark in the first half, stopping the ball twice while on the ground.
“Brooke has filled in really well for us, and has been a great asset to the team,” said Gerlach. “Today, she showed up big.”
It appeared the Tiger Sharks scored a second goal with 10:35 on the clock, after a corner kick and a rugby-like scrum at the net seemed to show the ball over the line. But the official blew the play dead and negated a possible score.
Walton’s Hannah King tied the game barely two minutes before the halftime whistle on a breakaway. St. Joe threatened twice before the break but Ferrell successfully defended her net both times.
Although the Braves managed to keep the ball on the Shark side of the field for the first part of the second half, Maddox broke the tie on a penalty kick with 11:20 remaining after eighth grader Alexa Pavon was fouled in the box.
The penalty kick seemed to “open everything up,” said Gerlach. “We tend to play that way, (and) sometimes need a spark and then we change gears.”
After Peacock made another save on a free kick inside the box, Maddox went to work again, scoring her third goal with an assist from seventh grader R.J. Gerlach that gave St. Joe a comfortable 3-1 lead with only seven minutes left to play.
With the home team energized and playing looser, the Tiger Sharks added the fourth and final score when Pavon found the goal on a Maddox assist at the 3:05 mark.
With the win, St. Joe’s record improved to 5-5-4, while Walton remained winless at 0-5-4. Maddox now has found the net 19 times, along with 12 assists, for the season.
After playing Rutherford (0-5-2) on Tuesday, the regular season ends with a home game against Freeport, which has a record of 8-6-2.
“We want to win both of those games, and go out on a winning note,” said Gerlach,
The end of the regular season will not be the last action at the local soccer field this year. “We are hosting districts for the first time, which we are really excited about,” said Gerlach. “Right now we’re just trying to keep our spot so that we’re the number one seed.”
“Seeding is based on record alone, and how they rank you in MaxPreps,” said Gerlach.
Besides Port St. Joe, Class 2A, District 1 includes Franklin County (0-10-1), Munroe (6-6), and Rocky Bayou Christian (4-8-1).