The grand opening of Marco Island Academy's Manta Ray Field was met with anticipation and excitement on Friday night.
The field boasts state-of-the-art Cool Turf, a training complex, locker rooms, and a concessions area. Unfortunately, the festivities were dampened by the Ray's 2-1 loss to Donahue Catholic; a last-second header by Chase Polley was miraculously saved by the Donahue goalie. Head coach Fernando Higuera believes the moment may have been a bit overwhelming for his team.
“The loss was tough. In the end, we almost tied it, but their goalie made a save; it was pure luck. Chase made a beautiful header, and I was celebrating,” Higuera said. He added, “I think a little bit of the pressure got to us. It’s a lot of responsibility. Everybody was there. They looked off. They weren’t communicating. We did not play the way we know how to.”
Despite the loss, Higuera was proud of his team's effort. “They gave their all. They were exhausted. They ran. I can’t complain about their effort. I was really proud of them for that.” MIA's lone goal was scored by freshman Alan Thomas, assisted by Polley. Higuera also noted his team didn't play as well as in their last game, a 4-3 win over Southwest Florida Christian.
The head coach is optimistic about the future of his squad and thrilled with the new facilities at MIA. He thanked donors and Mark Melvin, Leadership Advisory Board Member and Technology Director, who made sure they were ready for the game and supervised all of the work. “It’s gorgeous. Absolutely beautiful," Higuera said of Manta Ray Field. "Going from the modular to where we are now, it’s just unbelievable.