The Marco Island Academy upped their perfect season record to 13-0 on Wednesday, January 15, with a hard-fought 1-0 home win over Community School at Winterberry Field.
It was senior night and players from the boys’ and girls’ teams were honored.
The play on the pitch was heated, as the teams battled to a scoreless first half. A goal by MIA was erased by an offsides penalty.
“They’re gunning for us,” Head Coach Darrin Palumbo exhorted his squad at halftime. “It’s senior night!”
MIA had a huge advantage in shots on goal, but couldn’t find the back of the net until late in the game. Leading scorer, Ellie Ball, snuck her twenty-second goal into the right side of the net and was immediately congratulated by teammate Morgan Maile.
“We’ve had a lot of easier games, or games we made look easier,” Palumbo said. “This is the battle we needed. These are the kind of teams we’re going to face in the playoffs. They’re not going to be 8-0 wins. They’re not going to be mercy wins. They’re going to be lock-down battles like this. It’s good experience for our team.”
Things have not always been wine and roses for the Rays. Palumbo is very aware of the history of the program—and makes sure his girls appreciate those who came before them.
“Seven years ago when our first team planted a seed and watered it with tears, they lost all of their games—17 out of 17,” Palumbo explained. “We are very aware of what our alumni did for us. Our schedule hasn’t changed—we’ve just gotten better. What used to happen to us, we’re doing to other teams. The mercy losses, we’re dishing them out now instead of taking them. But we’re being classy about them. We remember what it was like to have it happen to us.”
Palumbo sighed a sigh of a coach who had many ways to go when he was asked who his leaders are.
“Team Head Captain Savannah Heimerl,” Palumbo started. “She can do it all on the field. Assistant Captain, Kirra Polley, our goalie. By far the best goalie in our district and beyond, in my opinion. Another Assistant Captain, Jenna Palumbo, my daughter. A defensive standout. I like to say that when she showed up on the team, that’s when the opponents’ number of goals started going down. And that’s a coach speaking, not just a dad.”
The team’s heady success is a good thing for Marco Island Academy, a charter school on the precipice of having a beautiful brick and mortal building constructed.
“It’s just a great time for our little school,” Palumbo said. “It’s important to note that we’re a school of about 250 students that battles schools of 1,800-2,000 students. Golden Gate, we beat ‘em 8-1. Lely, they’re an awesome team. We beat ‘em 1-0. Bonita High, 3-1. So, we don’t just play the small schools. We play some big schools.”