On Monday, January 22, they opened the District playoffs at Winterberry Park with a hard fought win, 4-0, over a surprisingly resilient St. John Neumann’s (SJN) team. That game was a 1-0 nail biter until midway in the second half, when Savannah Heimerl bent a powerful corner kick into the goal to give the Ray’s some breathing room. (This despite the fact that St. John Neumann had packed their entire team into the box to prevent this from happening – a nod to Heimerl’s athleticism.) Jenna Palumbo opened the scoring midway through the first half when she sent a looping shot in from midfield, which bounced over the head of the SJN’s surprised goalie who couldn’t catch up with it. Palumbo scored another goal with six minutes to go, with an assist from Heimerl who dropped a soft corner kick into the scrum. Streaking Ellie Ball, with an assist from Hailey Cartwright (also streaking), put the last one in at the three-minute mark. The stage was set for a semi-final matchup the next night with Evangelical Christian School (ECS) on their home field in Ft. Myers. ECS came in with a record of 15-2, having beaten MIA twice previously.Coach Jim Watt believes the Rays can win every game. He really believes it. This one was no exception. MIA managed to bring only 12 active players to this match, as opposed to a couple dozen for ECS. “[But] we were [the ones who] were wearing them out,” said Danya Zarate, a four year defensive star. The first half ended 0-0, with both teams getting several shots on goal. The defenses were completely dominating the game however, swarming the attackers and making “amazing saves” in goal. Ellie Ball, one of MIA’s top scorers, was shadowed by an ECS defender wherever she went. MIA’s defense turned away all attacks and rallied around goal keeper, Kirra Polley, to ensure that no rebounds went in. Each team kept pounding away, but well into the second half the score remained at 0-0. Finally at the 20-minute mark, the ECS striker, broke free and from midfield, scored on a long shot, which eluded the leaping Polley by inches. Minutes later MIA answered. Savannah Heimerl dribbled though three defenders and before the goalkeeper could get to her, put the tying goal into the net. The score was 1-1 when the horn sounded to end regulation. As the weary players came out for the 10-minute sudden death overtime, the stands were rocking with cheering and applause by parents from both teams. After 10 minutes neither team had scored, the defense once again dominating. The second overtime went as the first, each team smothering the other’s attacks. Then with just 1:30 to go, a wayward ball landed near midfield in front of an ECS striker, who managed to get it just over the fingertips of the leaping Kirra Polley. Final score, ECS 2, MIA 1. “I can honestly say that that was the most exciting game or sporting event I have ever witnessed,” Coach Watt said, “We all believed until the end that we were going to win.” While unloading the van later that night, the intrepid, glass half full coach finally broke down. “My emotions finally overtook me,” he said, “The tears were combinations of the loss but also happiness, love and joy of being a small part of these girls’ lives. They are all winners and will do great things in life.” After the greatest season for any athletic team in the school’s history, Coach Watt is already looking forward to next year. “There are new goals to accomplish,” he said.