Running into the defending state champions proved a bad draw for the Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School girls’ soccer team last Thursday.
The Lady Tiger Sharks opened the Region 1-1A playoff at Orange Park and a matchup with St. John’s Country Day, which won the state title last year.
Country Day made short work of Port St. Joe, winning 8-0.
The Lady Tiger Sharks finish 9-5-3.
"St. John's was the most complete high school level team that I have seen in my five years here,” said Port St. Joe coach Gary Hindley. “It was easy to see why they are the reigning state champions and why they have won five overall state championships. Their technical ability was fantastic and it allowed them to play at a speed that you rarely see at the high school level.
“It was a great experience for our girls and gave them the vision of where a high level program operates and plays at."
St. John's scored in the second minute of play and added goals at the 29th and 31st minutes to take a 3-0 first half lead.
In the second half, the offensive barrage continued with goals in the 43rd, 59th, 64th, 69th and 72nd minutes.
Port St. Joe was outshot 33-2.
Starting goalkeeper Celeste Chiles, an eighth-grader, recorded 13 saves on the night (a season high).
"Celeste actually played quite well to keep the score at eight,” Hindley said. “She was especially solid in the second half, in spite of the goals allowed.
"It was quite an experience for our girls to compete against such a high quality squad. Our program will be better in the future for the experience. St John's has a great chance to repeat as state champions and with only two seniors they should be strong for years to come."
Hindley went on to praise the Lady Tiger Sharks.
"In spite of the regional loss, the coaching staff is very proud of this group and how they progressed during the year,” Hindley said. “We had great success within our district (3-1-2 and runners-up in the district tournament) and had a nine-game unbeaten streak during the middle portion of the schedule."