CAPE CORAL — Having beaten the defending state champions once this season, the Barron Collier girls soccer team knew that it could do it again.
Maria Gomez scored a long-distance shot in the first half to lead Barron Collier to a 1-0 win over host Ida Baker in the Class 4A-District championship Thursday night. The Cougars defense and goalkeeper Alex Persiani shut out an assertive attack from the defending state champion Bulldogs.
"Ida Baker is a spectacular team, a fantastic program, and tonight we came out on top," Barron Collier coach John Winfield said.
What the Cougars were not was intimidated. The players charged the ball throughout the game, even though Ida Baker's attack never let up.
"The first time we played them, we were kind of freaked out, but every single one of us believes in every single one on this field," said Persiani, who had 18 saves.
The win gives the Cougars a home game in the regional quarterfinals Wednesday against the District 4A-11 runner-up.
Gomez's goal was a floater from outside the 18-yard box. The ball bounced into the back left corner of the net, putting the Cougars up 1-0.
For the rest of the game, the Bulldogs put up a relentless attack, but the only thing they could not do was score. There was a ball batted away here, a diving Persiani save there, a missed shot over the crossbar, etc., but Barron stood firm.
"It was really stressful, actually," Persiani said. "Normally when you get into a game, you think, 'Once I get the first touch, everything will calm down,' but to be honest, everybody had butterflies in their stomach the entire game.
"We just had to keep communicating and we had to be positive, because they have phenomenal forwards."