Sussex Academy avenges conference title game loss to Polytech

Seahawks let it fly in 4-0 victory as long balls bear fruit
April 15, 2024

Sussex Academy girls’ soccer avenged a loss to Polytech in the Henlopen Conference Championship with a 4-0 regular-season win April 11. 

Senior Samira Zahraoui said part of reaching the goal of winning a state championship is taking care of business little by little, and that starts with beating the teams that beat them last year. 

Battling back and forth in the first 20 minutes, both teams became increasingly bullish on attempts from distance given the prevailing winds. Seahawks coach R.J. Dina said it's on him to figure out a way to impact a game like that. 

“Tactically, we said anything from 45 yards or in is a shot on frame for any free kick or any set piece,” he said.

Cate Brown launched a missile from nearly 50 yards out in the 22nd minute that soared through the grey sky and into the back of the net. 

The Seahawks sensed blood in the air and continued to pounce on the Panthers while they had the elemental advantage. In the 34th minute, Brown’s cross on a corner kick found sophomore Deb Williams.

“I told myself, ‘They are not going to account for you; they're not going to think that this little 5-foot-3 girl is going to touch it,’” Williams said. “I just saw it coming; today was the day!”

Two minutes later, senior Tayler Flaherty sent a cross into the box that Zahraoui buried for a career first to make it 3-0.

Brown, Williams and Zahraoui drew the difficult assignment of marking Polytech’s super sophomores Ava Gzym and Sierra Henry. Williams said Dina emphasized composure in training all week.

“Whether we lose the ball or whether we win the ball, we had to make sure that we're keeping it to us,” Williams said. “We weren't getting too frantic.”

Over the next 30 minutes, Polytech repeatedly tried to break a Sussex Academy defense that refused to concede. Goalie Grace Fiorilla made a few impressive saves in the second half as the Panthers tried to take advantage of a favorable wind. A back line of Ashley Alvarez Chavez, Grace Kilroy, Carmen Merrick and Sienna Serpico timed their steps nearly perfectly in the contest, often allowing space only for long shots.

Despite going against the wind, Flaherty fielded a Maya Hastings pass in the 73rd minute and joined the long-goal club with Brown on a rocket that banged into the top post before bouncing into the back of the net.

“Soccer is a game of principles; you do the right things and you get the right results,” Zahraoui said. “We came into this game with the mindset that we're going to do everything right.”


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