Darton freshman Troy Tucker scored the game-winning goal to clinch the region title for the Cavs last week as they head to the District finals today in South Carolina.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. --- With sophomore leaders Diego Ramos and Carlos Trombino Filho injured and questionable for today's Southeast District final against Spartanburg Methodist College (S.C.), Darton coach Bart Sasnett knows his freshmen need to step up.
But for the nationally ranked No. 2 Cavs, that's nothing new.
Want To Go?
WHO: Brevard (9-3) at Darton women (15-2-2).
WHAT: NJCAA Division I District F Championship.
WHEN: 6 p.m. today.
AT STAKE: Winner goes to nationals in Melbourne, Fla.
More than half of Darton's starters during the regular season were freshmen, including Bermuda native Troy Tucker, who had the game-winning goal in double overtime of last weekend's Region XVII Championship against Georgia Perimeter and was the second-leading vote getter for Region Player of the Year behind Ramos.
"We have had a big role this year," said Tucker, who watched Ramos and Filho exit the region championship in the first half with injuries. "Playing without them would put a lot of pressure on us. It will also make us fight harder, because we want to do it for them. They worked so hard for the team, last year and this year."
On Wednesday, Sasnett said Ramos with his knee injury and Filho with his ankle injury would be game-day decisions. If the two leaders don't play today, freshmen Andrew Palumbo and Matthew Treuman will take their spots, meaning the Cavs (17-1) would have just two sophomores --- Javier Anor and Travis Rovillo --- in the starting lineup.
"We have prepared ourselves for situations like this, and we have some young guys who can step up and hopefully take care of business," Sasnett said. "(The freshmen) have been huge all season, and they have really matured a lot. It's going to be interesting to see how they handle the pressure of (today). I think once we settle in and start playing, we will be fine."
Ramos, who didn't practice all week, said he is optimistic that he will be able play but still calls it a "50-50 shot."
"I led the team all the way, and now it feels like I'm letting them down," said Ramos, who is seventh in the nation in scoring with 17 goals and 30 assists. "They look up to me when it comes to times like this and the pressure is on. Knowing that I might not be able to help them hurts."
Spartanburg Methodist (15-3), the Region X champs, are led by the nation's leading scorer, Sebastian Velasquez, who has 34 goals and 15 assists. The winner of today's game will play in the National Championships on Nov. 17-20 in Phoenix.
BREVARD STANDS IN THE WAY OF LADY CAVS: Darton's celebration after winning last Saturday's Region XVII title was just minutes old when sophomore Renee Hurd walked over to teammate Kelly Polk, a Lee County grad, and started talking about the future.
More specifically, they were talking about today's District F Championship at home against Brevard, which is ranked 11th in the nation and one of only two teams that beat No. 4 Darton in the regular season.
"I walked up and told Kelly, 'Now that the final whistle has blown, this is in the past. Brevard is someone that we have always talked about having a rematch with. I have been looking forward to this ever since that final whistle of that game blew,' " Hurd said.
That 1-0 regular season loss was Sept. 11, but the 15-2-2 Lady Cavs are 12-0-2 since that game and ready to exact some revenge on the Lady Titans.
"We are ready to beat them and show them who the better team really is," Polk said.
The winner of today's game, which starts at 6 p.m., will advance to the Nov. 17-19 National Championship in Melbourne, Fla.