CONCHS SET THE NET ABLAZE TO CLOSE SEASON

Key West’s boys picked up win number nine on Jan. 24 when they hosted South Miami in the FHSAA District 16 4A quarterfinals match in The Backyard. The Conchs sent the Cobras home early in a 9-1 mercy rule victory to secure a spot in the semifinals. Wyatt Gibson scored a hat trick and Damir Karimov, Niko Sulak, Jose Sene Reyes, Owen Linley, Emmanuel Innocent and Kieran Smith scored 1 apiece in the resounding win. On Jan. 26, the No. 3-seeded Conchs headed to Gulliver to take on the second-seeded Makos of MAST Academy on neutral ground. Key West lost the semifinal match 4-0, but their late-season run and difficult schedule may give them a coveted at-large spot to regionals. 

The Lady Conchs advanced directly to the semifinals due to a small district pool. Fourth-ranked Key West took their talents on the road, taking down top-seeded MAST Academy in a shootout victory. Goalkeeper Teagan Lavin and the Conchs’ defense managed to keep the Makos off the scoreboard in regulation play. Unlike the regular season, playoffs require a winner, sending the teams into penalty kicks in a shootout dominated by Key West. Grace Andrew, Kaitlyn Franco, Molly McKnight and Maddie Kilduff found the net with their shots, and some spectacular saves by Lavin spelled victory for the Conchs, who played for the FHSAA District 16 4A title against second-seeded St. Brendan on Jan. 31 (results not available at press time).

Marathon’s boys pulled off an upset of their own on Jan. 29, defeating higher-seeded Somerset South Homestead in a 4-3 road win. Oscar Cardona struck first, followed by Jay Marshall and Giordani Prieto with a nice header. Stuart Godoy scored the go-ahead goal from a ricochet off the upright with just about a minute remaining in regulation play, sealing the quarterfinal win for the Fins. Tiago Rivero and Aiden Judd combined in goal for what head coach Shannon Wiley described as “countless saves,” giving the keeper duo praise for their “stellar teamwork.” Next up for Marathon’s boys was a Jan. 29 semifinal match against the number one seed in District 16 3A, Palmer Trinity. Though they put forth a valiant effort, the Fins fell to the Falcons, 4-0.

The Lady Fins hoped to pull off an upset at Coral Shores, a team they had improved against recently. In their last matchup, the teams tied, making their third game this season something both teams felt was winnable. On Jan. 25 in the FHSAA District 16 3A quarterfinals, Coral Shores would be the victor, effectively ending Marathon’s season at 2-10-2, but not before the Fins gave the ’Canes some cause for worry. The match came down to the final whistle in a 3-2 victory for Coral Shores. Lady Fin midfielder Jordan MacDonald scored one of Marathon’s goals off of a penalty kick and Mackenzie Budi redirected a corner kick for the Fins’ two scores. Scoring for Coral Shores were Kai Redruello, Izzy Malloggi and Ali Beth Wilson.

The Lady ’Canes earned a spot in the semifinals with their win over Marathon. They hit the road on Jan. 26 to play at Palmer Trinity against the perennial powerhouse Falcons, who ended the seasons of both Marathon and Coral Shores last year. Palmer defeated Coral Shores 8-1 in the semifinal match, with Grace Goodwin spoiling a Falcon shutout with a nice goal off of a Jenna Mandozzi corner kick. The loss ended Coral Shores’ chance to move on, and they completed their season with a 3-10-1 record.

Coral Shores’ boys played Somerset Silver Palms in their quarterfinal match Jan. 25. The ’Canes lost the match 3-1. Junior Preston Carroll scored the lone goal for the Hurricanes, whose season came to a close with the loss. The ’Canes ended with a record of 2-8-3.

Tracy McDonald fled to the Keys from the frozen mountains of Pennsylvania hours after graduating from college and never looked back. She is a second generation coach and educator, and has taught in the public school system for over 25 years. She and her husband met at a beginning teacher meeting in 1997 and have three children born and raised in Monroe County. In her free time, McDonald loves flea markets, historical fiction and long runs in the heat.