WESLEY CHAPEL — Wiregrass Ranch matched up well against region final opponent Harmony during the course of open play.
On set pieces, however, Harmony was absolutely deadly.
And the Longhorns’ efficiency with the ball killed any hope the Bulls had of advancing to their first state semifinal.
Harmony scored three times off corner kicks and added a fourth goal on a 40-yard free kick to move past Wiregrass Ranch 4-0 and into the Class 4A state semifinals.
“They’ve very good at those set pieces,” Wiregrass Ranch coach Erin Dodd said.
Harmony (17-1) scored on each of its first three corner kicks. The Longhorns lit up the scoreboard for the first time in the 10th minute when Kaley Ward sent a dangerous corner tight against the goal that was initially stopped by Wiregrass Ranch goalkeeper Dayton Wetherby (six saves) before it was headed into goal by Payton Leffew on the rebound.
Harmony grabbed a 2-0 lead five minutes later after Ward sent another corner into a dangerous spot close to goal, this time on the back post, where Sage Leffew was waiting to head it into the open net.
The Bulls (23-3-2) had a chance to answer before the first water break when A.J. Blount received a long pass behind the Harmony defense. Her first touch, however, was too strong, and Longhorns goalkeeper Kaylee Horn (three saves) came off her line to snuff out the scoring opportunity.
In fact, each time the Bulls threatened the Longhorns’ goal, either Horn or one of Harmony’s quick-recovering defenders was there to get a body in front of the ball to neutralize the Bulls’ speed up top with Blount and Berlin Waters.
“Their (defense) was fast, and maybe just one step faster (than us),” Dodd said.
With Wiregrass Ranch fighting to score and get back in the game, Harmony scored a backbreaking goal after halftime on its third corner. Ward, again, served up the dangerous ball, which deflected off a defender, the crossbar and Wetherby before slipping across the goal line.
Harmony added an insurance goal with 14:45 remaining in the game. Kendall Pollock sent a skyward free kick toward goal from 40 yards out that Wetherby was unable to reach high enough to save.
“I don’t feel like we played our best soccer,” Dodd said. “I felt like Harmony played with a little more intensity than we did, and we just couldn’t get it done.”
Despite the loss, Wiregrass Ranch, which was shut out for only the second time all season by a Harmony defense that has yielded only five goals, completed its most successful season in school history.
“(The girls) are upset now, but I know once they have some time off and they look back on the season, they’ll realize they need to hold their heads high and be proud because it was a great season,” Dodd said.