SARASOTA -- Between Cardinal Mooney's two goals Wednesday in the Class 2A-Region 2 semifinals was 20 minutes of backpedalling. After opening the game's scoring with a 14th minute goal, the Cougars retreated to their side of the field as Fort Myers Bishop Verot staged an extended threat and finished the half with four unanswered shots on goal. Bishop Verot had temporarily cracked Mooney's 4-4-2 formation. The Vikings took control of the midfield.
Even though goalkeeper Emily Beck was playing a flawless game, head coach Graham Warne knew Verot's perpetual threats would eventually break Cardinal Mooney. He changed his formation, opting for a 4-5-1 to regain an advantage in the middle of the field.
Three minutes into the second half, the Cougars scored their second goal in a 2-0 win at Austin Smithers Stadium.
"It made the difference," Warne said. "The second goal made all the difference."
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With two goals from forward Skylar Jungers, Mooney (15-2-3) is on its way to the first region final in program
history. Cardinal Mooney travels to Tampa on Friday to meet Academy of the Holy Names, which beat Lakeland McKeel Academy on Tuesday in Tampa.
Jungers also gave Warne confidence in his new formation. The junior scored both of the Cougars' goals in their region quarterfinal against Cape Coral Oasis on Thursday and put Mooney ahead with another goal 13 minutes into the region semifinal in Sarasota.
"Possess!" Bishop Verot head coach Randy Zavada shouted from the sideline, and for most of the final 26 minutes before halftime the Vikings (17-9-1) did. Verot peppered Beck with two shots in less than a minute two minutes after the goal and added another six minutes later. Beck finished the game with five saves, all during the last 41 minutes.
"I had an early save, which kind of just made everybody get going, so it went well after that," the sophomore said. "We were focusing more on defensive and we were doing good with positioning."
Bishop Verot's only shot on goal during the second half came during the first minute when a miscommunication along Cardinal Mooney's back line forced Beck to stop a one-on-one opportunity from Viking junior Madeline Sarnac.
Otherwise the Cougars turned the second half into a match played at midfield. They scored in the 43rd minute when Jungers volleyed in a corner kick at the back post and after that neither team recorded a shot on goal.
"When you play a 4-5-1 it's tough on the forward," Warne said, "but she got herself in a great position."