Vikings Hope Their Freshman Phenom Makes the Difference
Fri. February 01, 2013 at 2:00 a.m. | By Polk Preps Staff
BRI FOLDS, with 48 goals and 46 assists, is the county's top scoring threat. She and two other of the team's top players — Mallory White and Sydney Rayborn are just back from injuries. (Photo by SCOTT WHEELER | THE LEDGER)
LAKELAND |Bri Folds is here; Carson Pickett is gone.
Is it as simple as that when Lakeland Christian plays host to Orange Park St. Johns Country Day in the FHSAA girls soccer Class 1A state semifinal, a rematch of last year's meeting? Probably not, but Lakeland Christian fans can hope.
Folds, the Vikings' freshman phenom and top goal scorer, wasn't around last year when Lakeland Christian (26-1-1) lost to Orange Park St. Johns Country Day (22-1) in the Class 1A state semifinals. Pickett was Country Day's leading scorer with 53 goals, including four goals in the Spartans' 7-2 victory.
The teams meet in the rematch at 7 tonight at Lakeland Christian in a game that should be more competitive than last year's contest. When they met earlier in the season, Country Day won 2-1 despite missing its top player, Mallory Bane, who was taking the SAT. LCS was without senior midfielder Mallory White and defender Bailee Mathers.
"We gained a lot of confidence in that game," LCS coach Jason Streets said. "It showed our girls they could play with them."
This is the fourth final four for Lakeland Christian, its first being when Dean Johnson led the Vikings to the state semis in 2000. Since then, the Vikings were tripped up in the regional finals six times, making the final four only in 2004 before finally getting over the hump again last year.
The Vikings brought nearly everyone back from last year's team, and Folds, with her 48 goals and 46 assists, was the big addition.
Whether the Spartans' loss of Pickett and the Vikings' addition of Folds makes a difference remains to be seen.
"She (Pickett) was very good," LCS goalkeeper Lydia Cagle said. "With Bri, we added an extra weapon."
Needless to say, the Vikings aren't exactly surprised to be back in the final four.
"We had huge expectations this year," Streets said. "Last year, our goal was to get to the final four."
Now Lakeland Christian is looking for its first state title in girls soccer.
"I've been playing here since the sixth grade, from when we weren't even close to being right here," White said. "It's pretty cool."
The Vikings should be back to full strength tonight after battling injuries. Folds suffered an MCL injury just prior to the playoffs. Sydney Rayborn (39 goals, 26 assists) sprained an ankle and also has been sick. White, who scored three goals in the regional semifinals, had knee surgery two weeks earlier.
All will play tonight. Folds missed three games and played 20 minutes in the regional semis and about 40 minutes — with a goal on a direct kick — in the regional final and is expected to see more time tonight.
"It's a little better," Folds said.
Despite the explosiveness of the Vikings' offense, Streets expects the game to come down to defense. The Vikings, who defeated 4A power George Jenkins during the season, allowed just eight goals during the season, which Streets said was a school record for fewest goals allowed.
The young, talented group that LCS has had the past two seasons now bring more experience. Cagle is perhaps the top keeper in the county, and in front of her, Mathers, Josie Koretchko and Charlie Eaves have played together for a number of years. All are juniors. The newcomer to the group is talented seventh-grader Mary Catherine Peace. They know even they'll have their hands full against Country Day.
"I think we're better prepared and more focused," Cagle said. "Last year, we went in know they were better."