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TAMPA — Taylor Decaire’s white soccer jersey was speckled with dried blood, a marking of how physical Newsome’s Class 5A state championship with St. Thomas Aquinas was.
“It was just crazy out there,” Decaire said looking down. “I don’t even know where that came from.”
Plenty was on the line for the Wolves, who entered their first title tilt ranked No. 2 in the nation by ESPN Rise. The Raiders were ranked seventh, but boasted a Goliath-beating resume that included two wins over No. 1-ranked teams.
But Newsome’s bid for an undefeated season — and mythical national title — was derailed by an Aquinas team that won state bragging rights, dealing the Wolves a 2-0 defeat Saturday.
“They’re not just a good team, they’re a great team,” Newsome coach Kelly Townsend said. “Class 5A is the hardest classification in Florida. In any other classification, we both would have been state champions. This was the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the state.”
In getting here, the Wolves (25-1) survived a 2-1 win over nemesis George Jenkins and a 3-1 comeback victory, in which Newsome scored all three goals in the final 3:14, over Seminole on Friday. Fatigue finally set in against the Raiders.
“I think a lot of the girls were physically and mentally hit from the games before,” said senior midfielder and Florida recruit Karina Gutsche. “I know it’s not an excuse; for me, that’s what it felt like.”
In the 19th minute, Aquinas’ Sarah Guensler’s lofting kick from just outside the penalty box got caught in the wind and looped over senior keeper Teena Fehling’s fingertips.
“It just hovered in the air and it just dropped right over my hands,” Fehling said.
Ana Cuffia put the Raiders up 2-0 with a second-half goal from the far side of the box.
The Wolves’ offense was handcuffed by a stingy Aquinas back row — led by a pair of 5-foot-9 center backs in McKenzie Klingaman and Amy Goodner.
“They were huge back there,” Townsend said. “They were tall. We’re quick. We were playing the ball in the air and we needed to play it on the ground.”
Decaire, a sophomore with a team-high 27 goals, broke through the Aquinas (25-1) defense on occasion, but ended up on the ground several times. The Raiders’ back row also baited the Wolves into six off-sides calls. Newsome began to control the run of play in the second half, but when the Wolves got shots on goal, Hofstra recruit Julia Kantor was there to stop them.
“They were physical, but I think we held up,” Decaire said. “We continued with it. I’m proud of where we are. This only sets our goals a little bit higher. The bar is definitely raised.”