PANAMA CITY BEACH — The lead evaporated first, and the opportunity to advance to the state semifinals vanished shortly thereafter.
Mosley held a one-goal lead briefly in the first half before Ponte Vedra recovered and quickly asserted control in a 4-1 victory over the host Dolphins in the Region 1-3A finals at the Mike Gavlak Sports Complex.
The Dolphins ended their season 13-2-2. Ponte Vedra improved to 13-3-8 and will play Plantation American Heritage in the Class 3A state semifinals on Thursday at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne.
The regional final started out well for Mosley, which staked a 1-0 lead on Elizabeth Vickers’ goal in the 10th minute, but the Dolphins couldn’t maintain their advantage for long.
Ponte Vedra’s Delaney Borror was positioned perfectly to clean up a teammate’s shot that glanced off of the hands of Mosley goalkeeper Mariah Rinehart and rolled right to Borror’s feet in the 13th minute. Borror deposited the ball in the back of the net to even the game at 1-all.
“We knew we’d have a little advantage from the fact they had to travel five, six hours,” Mosley coach Marek Betkowski said. “We thought we could surprise them in the first 15-20 minutes, and we did that. Then they came back (and tied the game) 1-1, and we gave up that goal too quickly. The girls were really affected by this.
“I don’t want to take anything away from the other team. They were an outstanding team and the best team we played this season and very organized. They were the better team tonight. I’m proud of the girls that they could play at this level and give them a fight.”
The visiting Sharks, who were the runner-up in the District 4-3A tournament before reeling off three regional victories, pulled ahead when Megan Sharp outmuscled a Mosley defender for the ball deep inside the 18-yard box and finagled a shot past Rinehart for a 2-1 lead in the 36th minute.
Mosley allowed a costly goal moments before halftime when Abigail Miller redirected a teammate’s shot on goal to flick the ball past Rinehart and give Ponte Vedra a two-goal advantage going into the locker room.
“Every time you lose a goal on the way to the locker room, it affects you in a negative way,” Betkowski said. “It wasn’t something we were pleased with.”
Hanna Parado scored on a header in the 60th minute to give the Sharks an insurmountable three-goal lead in the 60th minute.
The Dolphins’ inability to possess the ball for long stretches seemed to frustrate the team as the game progressed. Mosley abandoned its preferred style of advancing the ball via short, accurate passes in favor of long, high-risk passes that generally resulted in turnovers and denied the Dolphins a chance to push players forward.
“Against stronger opponents it is more difficult to play a possession style,” Betkowski said. “We knew we would have less time than we did against other teams we played. ... They pressured us everywhere on the field, and there was too little time to look or to think.”
Ponte Vedra won state championships in 2009 and 2012. To earn the right to play for a third title, the Sharks must win a semifinal showdown against American Heritage, the District 15-3A champion that outscored its three regional opponents by a combined score of 17-0.