District soccer: St. Petersburg 1, Countryside 0
CLEARWATER — One small break, one sliver of an opportunity.
That's all Isabel Garcia needed to collect her first goal of the season. Oh, and also allow second-seeded St. Petersburg to win its first district championship since 2007, taking the Class 4A-10 title 1-0 over top-seeded Countryside on Friday night.
Now at 16-2, 8-1 in district play, the Green Devils will host District 9 runnerup King on Thursday to open region play. Countryside (13-2-1, 7-1-1) will travel to face district champ Bloomingdale.
In the 65th minute of a tightly-contested game, St. Petersburg funneled the ball down the right side to the penalty area. The Cougar defense looked to tuck the loose ball back to goalkeeper Alyssa Barnes but the touch on the ball was too light. Garcia pounced from the left side and saw a vast expanse of open net before her.
"This ball had better not go out," Garcia thought to herself just before her winning strike. "This ball had better hit the back of the net."
And it did as the junior's shot just beat a lunging Barnes to the middle of the net.
"I just try not to overthink it," Garcia said. "When I overthink it, that's when I really mess up. Just go out and hit it."
"The teams were pretty evenly matched and this is a tough district," said St. Petersburg coach Rui Farias. "We knew the first team to catch a break, the first team to score would probably win."
Until that point, St. Petesburg was commanding possession behind freshman Holly Beaver and senior Alex Calhoun, generating quality scoring opportunities for junior Francesca Ycaza and Garcia. After the goal, sophomore Caroline DeWitt looked to deliver the knockout blow but was stuffed by Barnes (seven saves, five in the second half).
"We try to control the midfield, go out wide with our wings and get behind (the defense)," said Garcia.
Countryside was struggling with the speed and physical play of the Green Devils, but still produced three strong shots from Lily Conte that challenged sophomore keeper Angeline Friel (four saves).
"St. Pete attacks quickly and swarmed us," said Cougars coach Chris Duffy. "They were very aggressive and we had great effort but we didn't play well. I'm disappointed in the result but not disappointed with the team, and we're still in (the playoffs)."