Hickey helps St. Francis win third straight district title
Published: Friday, January 21, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 12:16 a.m.
With the District 4-2A championship match winding down and neither team having scored, overtime was looking imminent. But with one timely swing of her leg, Celine Hickey changed everything.
The junior forward from St. Francis got just enough of teammate Farah Rajaee's free kick to direct a rolling shot into the corner of the net in the 75th minute of play, enabling the host Wolves to claim their third district title in a row with a thrilling 1-0 win over rival P.K. Yonge on Friday night.
Rajaee's free kick followed a hand ball called on the Blue Wave. The freshman defender, who was outstanding on the back line all night, delivered a low kick from outside the box into a crowd of players in front of the goal, and Hickey's right foot directed it home for the game-winner.
“Every time we play P.K. Yonge, it's been a one-goal difference or a tie,” said St. Francis head coach Henry Couch. “Nobody has ever scored two goals in one of these matches.
“P.K. Yonge was very well-prepared and they played so hard. This field was really tough to play on, but these girls have hung in. We've had so many injuries and so many starters out, but they put it together and did what they needed to do.”
With the hard-fought win, the Wolves improved to 14-2-3 and will host District 3 runner-up Tallahassee Pope John Paul II next Thursday in a Region 1-2A quarterfinal match.
P.K. Yonge, which slipped to 9-4-2 with the tough loss, will travel to take on District 3 champion Tallahassee Maclay.
“It's just the luck of the draw,” said Blue Wave head coach Pauline Hazan, whose young team started five players in grades 7-9. “Any given moment could have made it happen for either team. It was pretty evenly matched and hard-fought. It was a physical match, and it just came down to a free kick. That's how it goes.”
Both of next week's regional quarterfinals will be rematches from 2010. Maclay beat P.K. Yonge 5-1 in last year's regional quarterfinal, while St. Francis downed John Paul II, 4-2. Maclay then beat St. Francis 3-0 in the regional semifinals on its way to the state semifinals.
P.K. Yonge will be making its sixth consecutive regional playoff appearance, while the Wolves will be making their fourth straight.
“There's always a disadvantage of playing on the road, but at least we have the chance to carry on our season,” said Hazan. “We're going to stay optimistic, and who knows? We may get a rematch with St. Francis.”
“This program is only five years old, but we've made the playoffs the last four years, including the last three as district champions,” noted Couch. “This has been an extremely easy group of young ladies to work with. There's no drama with them — they've come together and they work hard. It's just been a real good season. I was glad to see them win this one.”