District soccer: Plant rallies, meets Palm Harbor U. next
LUTZ — Four minutes is all Nicki Barrow needed to pick up an injured teammate. Her goal in the 76th minute completed a late Plant rally in a 3-2 victory against Wharton on Wednesday night in the Class 5A, District 7 semifinals.
The No. 2 seeded Panthers (8-1-5) face top-ranked Palm Harbor University (16-0-1) on Friday. The Hurricanes advanced with a 3-0 win over No. 4 seed Steinbrenner.
Plant, which was locked in a scoreless game at halftime despite a minimum of five excellent scoring opportunities, trailed 2-0 in the 49th minute when Alisha Deschenes scored twice within five minutes for No. 3 seed Wharton (12-6-3). But Plant's Kinley Larson tied the score with a pair of goals in a four-minute span, the final one on a rebound in the 59th minute.
Thirteen minutes later, action was halted 20 minutes when Plant's Chrissy Lewis and Wharton' Grace Patino were injured in a hard tackle. Neither player returned with Lewis sustaining an undisclosed lower left leg injury, and Patino hurting her left knee. Plant coach Jeannette Rosado said Lewis is not expected to play in the district finale.
Barrow didn't waste much time with her game-winner, finding the net from in close on a rebound.
"Seeing one of (our) best players go down, I feel like it's really important to step up to the plate and get that (goal),'' Barrow said. "It's best not to be discouraged. We're all a team, and I feel like we were all focused and able to pull it together in the last couple minutes.''
Rosado said Barrow's play was a microcosm of her Panthers' attitude.
"It shows the leadership on the team where you have someone like Nicki, who can translate that into motivation,'' Rosado said. "That's what this team is all about. They leave it on the field for each other, and that's been the biggest difference for this program. They wil sacrifice for one another. . . . Chrissy is the definition of it.''
Palm Harbor got two-first half goals from Alivia Gonzalez and recorded its 10th shutout of the year against Steinbrenner (11-3-1).
"We stressed to the girls that we had to get through (this game),'' Palm Harbor U. coach John Planamenta. "Steinbrenner is a strong opponent. Our district is just so powerful. Anyone can win this district. So every game is going to be a tough one, and (Steinbrenner) gave us a great game.''
Allyssa Woodring scored the only goal in the second half.
"Plant has got some speed,'' Planamenta said. "They tied us during the season, 1-1, and it's one of those games that as a district final you'd love to win because it's a championship game.''