St. Johns Country Day girls soccer looks to continue 11-year playoff winning streak Friday

St. Johns Country Day practices in preparations for the regional semifinal match. The Spartans host Christ's Church Academy on Friday. (Cole Pepper, 2023 WJXT)

ORANGE PARK, Fla. – St. Johns Country Day girls soccer has been so successful — it has won 14 state titles, including the last 11 in a row — that head coach Mike Pickett treats everything before the playoffs as a warmup.

He picks some of the best teams in the nation to make up one of the most difficult schedules in the state for a reason. He wants his team to be challenged.

“We look at the regular seasons as the preseason,” Pickett said. “We’re not worried about wins and losses in the regular season. Obviously, we want to do our best and win as much as we can. But it’s not the focus. The focus is just to keep trying to fine-tune our game and to try and peak at the proper time, which is now.”

Now, of course, is the playoffs. In three postseason games, including two district playoff games, the Spartans have beaten St. Joseph Academy (twice) and University Christian each 8-0. Take any one of those games and St. Johns would have outscored every opponent on their schedule combined. They have conceded only six goals all season. They have won 17 games, lost one (to Montverde Academy, ranked fourth in the country), and finished in a 1-1 draw with Bartram Trail, the top-ranked team in the country.

It’s not necessarily what Pickett expected from this team after losing 19 players over the past two seasons.

“This team is young,” Pickett said. “And I’ll be honest with you, we put together a very difficult schedule, one of the toughest in the nation. And they have overachieved what my expectations were in the preseason.”

Despite the youth on the roster — 15 of the 25 girls are in ninth grade or younger — Pickett likes the depth of his roster. It’s a team that has a tight relationship as well, which helps to resolve any problems that may crop up.

“This team is very tight-knit, and everyone knows each other,” said senior Lauryn Mateo. “Everyone knows what is happening inside the loop. 24/7. It’s like, if someone has a problem, they come to whoever they trust on this team. And they come in, they talk to us, and we try and resolve that problem.”

That is inside the locker room. On the pitch, the Spartans blend together well, a tribute to both the girls and the coaching from Picket, who was named as the best girls’ soccer coach in America this year.

And then there is the legacy. With so many championships in the past, the push to continue the tradition is ever-present.

“Always,” said Mateo. “The girls here are just great people; they always have been. The culture here is very, very important, especially this team. I love this team personally. I know the girls love this team. Cultural is really important to us.”

That culture, and the state tournament winning streak that dates back a decade, will be put to the test as the playoffs roll on. On Friday, the Spartans face Christ’s Church with the winner earning a spot in the regional finals to be played on Valentine’s Day against either Mount Dora Christian or Rocky Bayou Christian.

About the Author:

Cole joined News4Jax full-time in January 2017, but he has been a part of the team since he began filling in as a sports anchor in 2005.