District soccer: Newsome tested in Class 5A-6 semifinal
PLANT CITY — It was a "win or go home" situation in Wednesday night’s Class 5A, District 6 semifinal, and Newsome’s powerhouse girls soccer team was well aware of that fact.
Yet the Wolves came out against Durant looking sluggish and rather out of sorts and …
“I don’t know if we were tight because it was a district semifinal, or maybe because Durant tied us (2-2) earlier in the season, but we were not ourselves,” Newsome coach Kelly Townsend said. “We honestly were lucky we survived tonight.”
Were they ever.
Yes, Newsome won 3-2, but the Wolves didn’t collect the winning goal until the 79th minute when Sophie Shrader turned and fired a 25-yard bullet off her left foot in the goal’s right corner.
It was Shrader’s third goal of the night and though Shrader said, “I had complete confidence that our team would get it done,” the Newsome faithful breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Overall, Newsome (17-0-3) dominated the vast majority of play, firing frequent shots on goal, but shots that were poorly aimed, or easily kicked away or scooped up by the Cougars’ keeper.
On the other side, Durant (9-6-2) mustered only three shots on goal, but two of those — the first by Olivia Beaver in the 21st minute on a breakaway and the second in the 56th minute by Alexi Nyiri on a penalty kick following a handball — found the back of the net.
Durant’s third shot bounced around in a scrum in the 60th minute and was narrowly punched away by Newsome keeper Madison Rowe.
“That was a little nerve-racking to watch,” Townsend said.
Despite the nail-biting frustration, Newsome never trailed, taking a 1-0 lead on Shrader’s close-range shot in the 19th minute, and a 2-1 lead on Shrader’s chip-in in the 44th minute.
Ultimately, Newsome — which has never failed to reach a girls’ district soccer final in the school’s 14-year history — moves onto Friday night’s final against Riverview, which defeated Plant City 4-3 in overtime on Wednesday.
Like Newsome, Riverview (9-5-1) never trailed, but was pushed throughout by a resilient squad from Plant City (7-5-2) that came back from a 3-1 second-half deficit.
In the sixth minute of the overtime period, officials awarded Riverview a free kick following a foul about 10 yards outside the box. That’s when Shark Robyn Larson stepped up and rifled a ball into the right corner of the net. Before the shot, Larson said she felt more confident than nervous.
“I thought that 15 years of club soccer had to pay off for something,” said Larson, who also popped in two more goals during regulation. “When I hit it I thought I had it. It felt good off my foot.”