Region soccer: Osceola 4, Largo 2
SEMINOLE – And the streak continues.
Playing Tuesday for the third time this season, host Osceola blazed. With lightning-fast play on the wings and aggressive defense, the Warriors just managed to keep opportunistic rival Largo in their rearview mirror in a determined 4-2 victory, earning a berth in the Class 3A region finals.
This marks the eighth straight time that Osceola (23-2) has toppled the Packers (13-9-2) since 2011.
“We love the wings; we love getting the ball down the sides then crossing,” said talented junior Rachel Dirks. “Always having someone there (for the pass) is what we're best at.”
Dirks worked both sides of the offense, scoring her team-best 35th goal of the season and adding a pair of assists.
Fielding Bella Stein's pass just inside the penalty area 10 minutes into play, Dirks “knew (Largo keeper Emma Schechter) was good in the air. I knew I didn't have any time. I just turned, looked and hit it far enough and it went in (off Schechter's upraised hands)."
Largo, fielding an entire squad of underclassmen, answered three minutes later when sophomore Mia Mui picked the Warrior defender's pocket, closed and beat keeper Amanda Johnson to the top right corner.
But for the next 35 minutes, it was all Osceola, throwing seven shots toward the Largo net and scoring twice.
Dirks delivered a perfect corner kick to Malerie Sawicki just outside the right post, and the junior headed the ball back to the left corner of the net in the 31st minute.
Early in the second half, good hustle down the right side from Dirks allowed the junior to push a pass in front of the Packer net. Stein beat Schechter to the ball on the left doorstep and tucked it home for an important insurance score.
Playing with enhanced urgency, Largo sliced the lead to one with 15 minutes remaining as junior Catrina Salazar's perfect 20-yard free kick was headed in by classmate Breaunna Dailey.
"We played (the Packers) a week and a half ago, got out to a 3-0 lead and they came back and made it 3-2," said Osceola coach Steve Kuplicki. "It got a little crazy out there (Tuesday) but it was nice to have some insurance."
And just a minute after Dailey's goal, junior Taylor Emmanuel threaded a beautiful pass to Jamison Lake between the Largo defense and she drove home the game-clincher to the low right corner.
"We know we can compete with Osceola, but they're good on possession, good at switching direction on the field quickly," said Packers coach Dan Flynn. "Where you're as young as we are, it's a big challenge.
"But after finishing fifth in the district last year, to come out and make the regional semis this year with everybody coming back ... I couldn't be more proud of the girls."