TAMPA — If there was one concern Tampa Prep coach Cindy Schofield had about her team in the days leading up to the Class 2A state semifinal against Tallahassee Maclay, it was the Terps’ sputtering starts.
Schofield, who left Florida State as the school’s all-time leading scorer, still had connections in Tallahassee that allowed her to scout her opponent well. And after morale-boosting victories in the past two rounds, the Terps’ confidence was peaking at the right time.
But nothing could help the Terps more than taking a two-goal lead just 10 minutes into the game against the Marauders Thursday afternoon at the University of Tampa’s Pepin Stadium on their way to a 3-1 victory.
“It was huge for us,” senior keeper Jordan Hatton said. “It set the tone. When you score two goals in the first 10 minutes, it sends a message.”
That message was that the Terps, playing in front of about 350 fellow students — their campus is less than a block north on North Boulevard — wouldn’t be denied from playing for their second state title in three years.
“We didn’t get nervous,” junior midfielder Jackie Rosenthal said. “We didn’t back down. We just came out and showed everyone what we had.”
Tampa Prep (17-5-4) faces Delray Beach American Heritage, the same team it beat in penalty kicks to claim their first state title in 2008, in Friday night’s championship.
Sophomore Alyssa Bryant scored in the second minute, booting a loose ball deep in the box. In the ninth minute, center back junior Isabel Dalence then found the top left corner of the net on a penalty kick that gave Tampa Prep a 2-0 lead and even had Maclay’s co-captain keeper Callie Corbin Langford shell-shocked.
“That PK was unbelievable,” said Corbin Langford, a sixth-year starter who anchored a defense that allowed just nine goals all season.
The Terrapins then sealed the game on Rosenthal’s shot from the right side of the goal 20 yards out that landed just inside the far post.
“I think it helped everyone realize it was really our game,” Rosenthal said. “Once we got the third goal we knew we were set. We knew we weren’t going to let down.”
Maclay (21-2-3) scored in the 67th minute on a goal by Hannah Ciupalo, but it wasn’t enough to tip momentum.
“We just weren’t stepping to the ball in the early part of the game and they were,” Maclay coach Paul Dickson said. “They won every 50-50 ball in the early going and in soccer that will kill you.”