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No. 1 Brevard downs Darton women at nationals, 5-1, to end season

Darton coach Ken Veilands said he was proud of his team's turnaround after a 4-5 start to the season, despite it coming up short in nationals.

Darton coach Ken Veilands said he was proud of his team's turnaround after a 4-5 start to the season, despite it coming up short in nationals.

MELBOURNE, Fla. — The greatest turnaround season in the history of Darton women’s soccer ended Wednesday.

But it didn’t end without the Lady Cavs putting up a fight.

“Brevard was in for a war (Wednesday),” Darton soccer coach Ken Veilands said. “And they got one.”

With a trip to the NJCAA national semifinals on the line, the Lady Cavs stayed right with No. 1 seed Brevard (Fla.) Community College for much of the game before giving up a series of goals in the final minutes to fall, 5-1.

Darton, which was last year’s national runner-up, and Brevard both entered Wednesday with 1-0 records in pool play and were locked in a 1-1 tie at halftime, but the host Lady Tornados scored the go-ahead goal early in the second half, added another goal with 21 minutes left and then closed the game with a pair of goals in the final three minutes after Darton cleared its bench.

It was a disappointing way for the Lady Cavs to end the season, but Veilands said the journey that took them there will be what is remembered.

“I have nothing but great thoughts about this team,” Veilands said. “After what we went through, it was a good run.”

The Lady Cavs began the season with a 4-5 record and had a number of demoralizing losses, including a 2-0 setback to Brevard on Sept. 15 in Albany, but they bounced back with 10 straight wins.

Then they cruised to a Region XVII title with tournament victories against South Georgia and Georgia Perimeter — a pair of teams Darton was 1-3 against in the regular season.

That winning streak ended Wednesday morning, but it won’t be forgotten by the Lady Cavs’ 13-year head coach.

“As a coach, this was probably the hardest I worked in 13 years,” Veilands said. “They didn’t give up on me, and I didn’t give up on them. We made something out of this season after the dismal start. We weren’t going in the right direction, but we worked it out.”

Savanah Cantrell scored the lone goal for Darton, knotting the game at 1-1 on an assist from Chihiro Hikita with 2:13 remaining in the first half. It was the first goal Brevard had allowed since Oct. 11.

“The game was evenly matched in the first half, and at times in the first 20 minutes I thought we dominated them,” Veilands said. “We learned that we had a right to be there. We definitely proved that we belonged.”

The Lady Cavs (14-6) will lose eight sophomores — including starters Cantrell, Hikita, Deanna Reali and Kimberly Treutel — from a team that finished eighth in the country after being unranked for much of the season.