The dominating characteristic of the Navarre High girls soccer team is its stout defense. The feature that stands out most for Pace is its aggressive offense.
At 7:30 p.m. today, the two teams meet in the District 1-4A semifinals for an intriguing matchup at Navarre High, where the two defining qualities of each team will clash in a battle for a berth to the district championship game.
There, the Patriots or Raiders are likely to face No. 1 seed Niceville, which plays Fort Walton Beach in another semifinal game at 5:30 p.m. today.
"All three of us are pretty even," Navarre coach Rob Simon said of the Raiders, Patriots and Eagles. "But we're all different. We tend to be good defensively. Pace, they're a really dangerous attacking team. And Niceville is just a good all-around, well-coached team."
That means as the district tournament continues, anything is possible.
The Raiders' defense is anchored by seniors Morgan Littlewood and Hayley Naker, while freshman Mariah McKinney has stepped up this season, shutting down the area's top offensive weapons.
Those players will be key today against Pace offensive standouts Hannah Abrams and Eleana Colvin, who have scored 19 and 13 goals, respectively, this season.
"But we also have to score goals," Simon said. "We have to make sure we don't let opportunities go away. Pace's goalie (Katelyn Burkhart) is too good; she's at least going to make one dynamic save. So we have to make sure that save isn't the one that determines the game."
Did you know?
* Niceville is the defending District 1-4A champion.
* Navarre has never won a district championship, but has finished second three times in the past four seasons.
* Pace has won two district titles in the past three seasons and finished as the district runner-up last year.
* Niceville has won nine district championships in the past 12 seasons and has made the state playoffs for 13 years in a row.