Lourdes went unbeaten for the past four seasons in penalty kick shootouts.
The major reason for that if you ask any of the Bobcats players was senior goalkeeper Mia Alexander.
But that changed on Friday night at Spec Martin Stadium as Lourdes’ bid to win back-to-back titles and its third in the past four seasons ended in a 3-1 shootout loss to Venice in the Class 6A final.
“Mia is an incredible goalie and this doesn’t define her as a player,” said Lourdes senior Alexa Sanchez, one of several teammates who consoled a distraught Alexander after the match. “She’s one of the strongest people I know. She’s always been the one to cheer us up and I’m happy to have been captain with her this year.”
Alexander took the loss hard, but she kept Lourdes in the match throughout a scoreless draw through regulation and two overtimes with four saves. She also stopped one of the four penalty shots she faced in the shootout round.
But her counterpart from Venice was even better.
Senior goalie Ashton Pennell blocked two Lourdes shots to open the round, and her teammates Kiersten Slatery, Rachel Dalton and Olivia Fair converted theirs. Senior Maura Herrholz got Lourdes on the board with the Bobcats’ third shot and Alexander smothered a shot by Eileen Solomon.
But the Bobcats had dug themselves too big of a hole by that point and Coco Aguilar’s misfire over the crossbar sealed Venice’s first state title as it avenged last year’s loss in the final to Lourdes.
“We’ve never lost a penalty shootout and Mia is the reason for that,” Lourdes coach Ramiro Vengoechea said. “She’s won us multiple ones. We thought it would go that way again tonight but it just didn’t work out.”
Lourdes (12-3-1) was outshot 11-6 by Venice (16-4-1) and 3-2 in overtime. But the Bobcats had a great chance with 2:10 left in the second overtime. The Bobcats appeared to draw a foul inside the Venice box, which would have resulted in a penalty kick, but referees ruled just outside the corner. After a free kick, Adri Perez collected a rebound and hit the near post, just missing an empty net.
“We didn’t create as many chances as we would have liked, but we had a couple that were very, very close,” Vengoechea said. “They just didn’t bounce our way.”
Sanchez, who is going to Emory University, is one of eight seniors graduating from this year’s team.
“Seeing soccer greats before me that have gone on to collegiate levels and seeing how they grew and now seeing how I’ve grown, I wouldn’t trade this for the world,” Sanchez said. “It’s been an incredible journey.”
But Vengoechea said after the game he feels like his team, which had not won a state title before 2018, has established itself to a point where they expect to reach state and contend for a title every season.
“Lourdes soccer has always been strong and what we’ve built in my eight years here is incredible,” Vengoechea said. “The girls expect to win. Now we have that little extra motivation every time we get here. I have no doubt this next group will do that.”