When it comes to sports, Marco Islanders often think of themselves as David against Goliath when they go up against county schools.
However, on Thursday night it was two Goliaths, the Charter School and Oakridge, battling for the county soccer championship.
In a battle of unbeatens, both teams took it to each other. Unfortunately for Charter School it suffered its first loss and first shutout, losing 3-0.
The Lady Eagles controlled the early going in the first half, with Lexie Lundquist seemingly everywhere. But they were taking their shots too soon, too far from the goal.
As the period waned, Oakridge crashed the Charter School goal mouth and in the frenetic moment scored the first goal by Kellie Palumberi, on an assist by Caroline Berry.
The first half ended 1-0.
At halftime the Lady Eagles seemed crushed. They had given up just one goal in the previous 18 wins and had never trailed. Tears came too early for some with a half to play.
“We can win, we can do this,” coach Kim Burke urged her players.
Goalie Danny Marroquin was injured in the fist half when an opponent stepped on her right ankle, but went back out to what would be a hail of goal shots by Oakridge. Marroquin probably made more saves in the game than she had to fend off in the other 18.
A second Oakridge goal cameabout the seven-minute mark in the second half. Palumberi scored a second time on a pass from Jamie Albanos. The third goal came on Kiera McMeekan’s shot that went high above the outstretched arms of Marroquin and into the net.
Down 3-0, the Charter School girls became more determined, but the Oakridge defense was stifling.
Jenny Carter gave the Lady Eagles the best chance to score with about five minutes left. She brought the ball down the field and to the goal mouth when she was bumped and nearly lost the ball. She didn’t get a shot, but got the ball to another Lady Eagle who missed the shot.
Oakridge controlled most of the second half, yet the Lady Eagles did force play at times, with forward Christy Thorstenson giving her all to score a goal.
In the end the team that was a touch more aggressive, taking better shots on goal, that won.
Friday morning at school the girls still felt the pain of losing. It had been a long and marvelous season that brought a Sunshine Conference championship, but they lost the game they had wanted to win most.
They don’t hang banners in the Charter Gym for second place.
However, sometimes more is learned from a loss than a victory. It takes character to continue fighting in a game already lost.
Many years from now they will remember the loss, the time they nearly won the county championship.
Athletes know that unkind memory, the time the big one got away. But they also go on. Marroquin is just a seventh grader and playing goalie may be her ride to a college scholarship.
Eighth graders Jenny Carter and Jessica Andrade have made the Olympic Development Program team; Carter for the second time.
Assuredly the eighth graders will move onto high school and become keys to a team’s success. Because of the loss they will be more determined to avoid the near heart-breaking feeling. All carry with them the winning spirit.