SEVEN’S A STREAK: KEY WEST SOCCER MOWS DOWN OPPONENTS

Bruno Barrios

After a disappointing start which did not see a win for the team until Dec. 11, Key West’s boys have caught fire. Since then, the team has set up shop in the W column, including a trio of victories last week to make it a seven-game streak. 

On Jan. 9, they headed to St. Thomas Aquinas to play the larger 6A Raiders in Fort Lauderdale. Key West managed to topple the fifth-ranked team in 6A with a Wyatt Gibson header in the first half assisted by Sebastian Camargo. Nico Sulak put in the insurance goal with an assist by Loubins Fleuridor, and Sebastian Cruz locked things down in goal to preserve the win. 

Coach Nic Farrar credited defender Finn McKnight with making several clutch saves and Bruno Barrios with a goal-line clearance to secure the shutout. The victory was number five for the Conchs, with number six coming on Jan. 11 against Somerset Silver Palms in The Backyard. Key West sent the Stallions home after beating them 4-2 with just two days to prepare for their final regular-season home game that weekend. 

The next victim was Bolles, who traveled all the way from Jacksonville to play the Conchs. The Bolles Bulldogs are a perennial powerhouse on the pitch, and they did not lie down to hand Key West their seventh straight victory on senior night. 

“Both teams started brightly, and it was Key West that took the lead midway through the first half after good work from Loubins Fleuridor,” said Farrar. “(He) won the ball in the midfield and drove at the heart of the Bolles defense and calmly finished to give the Conchs the lead.” 

Key West held on to the lead through halftime, when the Conchs’ tempo as well as the weather changed and, according to Farrar, wind became a factor. Freshman Sonny Bowden found the back of the net for his first varsity goal in just his second start this season. Bolles answered back not long after Bowden’s goal, cutting the lead to 2-1. 

Soon after, Camargo took advantage of a Bolles goalkeeper miscue and was able to score in the unsecured goal from 25 yards out. Late into the second half, Bolles scored again, narrowing Key West’s lead to just one for the second time, and both teams battled for the final moments of play. Farrar credited McKnight with an early second-half penalty save as well as “easing the pressure with several key high-ball claims to secure the Conchs’ 3-2 victory.” The rest of Key West’s matches will be on the road this regular season, but they are as close to home as the Conchs get; they play Marathon and Coral Shores before focusing on districts.

Key West’s girls headed to Marathon on Jan. 11 for a rainy, yet decisive, win. The Conchs dominated the Fins 6-0 with help from a hat trick by Kaitlyn Franco. Grace Andrew, Jazzy Dieguez and Maicee Gage added one goal each in the district match. Coming off of their in-county win, the Conchs played at home in The Backyard against Gulliver Prep, losing 1-0. Both teams could meet again later this month in playoff action, giving the Conchs a chance at redemption against the Raiders. Key West will play two on the road this week before returning home to play their final regular-season match of the season against Lemon Bay on Jan. 20.

Marathon’s boys suffered a mercy-rule 8-0 loss at the hands of Florida Christian Jan. 9 and returned home to regroup. Neighboring rival Coral Shores would feel the full extent of their frustration on Jan. 12 when the Fins stormed the field and stole away a win on Coral Shores’ senior night. 

Mikail “Jay” Marshall struck first before the ’Canes put two into the net to take the lead. Marshall scored two more for a hat trick and Oscar Cardona had one goal in the Fins’ big win. 

“Marathon played their best game to date,” said coach Shannon Wiley, praising his defense for not giving up when they were down. “Defender Sebastian Stasiewicz and goalkeeper Tiago Rivero had numerous huge saves in the box,” he added, calling their efforts “nothing short of incredible.” 

The Lady Fins of Marathon played three matches last week, beginning with a Jan. 9 road loss to Florida Christian. Mackenzie Budi scored the lone Fin goal on a Jordan MacDonald assist in the 2-1 loss, which looked more like a rugby match than soccer. 

“The other team had seven yellow cards and a blue one,” head coach Cathy Warner said, adding that she was proud of her team for holding their composure and showing some grit after some pushing and shoving went unchecked and a goal was reversed in a questionable offsides call. 

After the Jan. 11 loss to Key West, the Lady Fins hit the road for a trip up to Coral Shores and a second chance to play their closest neighbor – and their coach’s old stomping grounds. The Fins showed marked improvement from their 5-1 loss earlier in the season. Both teams battled for 80 minutes, resulting in a 3-3 tie. Budi, Rain Banks and Sara Strama each scored one for the Fins, with MacDonald assisting on two of Marathon’s goals. Though the ’Canes were without starters Jenna Mandozzi and Sophia Jans for their senior night, Kai Redruello found the net twice and Mya Champigny scored on a penalty kick to keep Coral Shores in the game.

Warner, who is in her first year coaching for the Fins after formerly coaching the Hurricanes, was delighted with the outcome, saying the game “will leave the girls hungry and give them that drive to push even harder for the win when we play (Coral Shores) in districts.” 

The ’Canes and Fins will most likely match up for the first round of the FHSAA District 16 3A quarterfinals later this month. 

“Our girls have come a long way this season,” Warner said, “and everything we are working for is coming to fruition.”

Coral Shores’ boys started the week off with a loss to Somerset South Homestead on Jan. 9. Following the 3-2 district loss, the ’Canes tied Ransom the following night 2-2. They ended their week with the 4-3 loss to Marathon. 

Districts for boys and girls soccer begin Jan. 24 and run through Feb. 1.

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.