TAMPA — Newsome High senior forward Liz Haumschild buzzed in front of the goal all game, and as time began to tick away on the Wolves’ undefeated season, she couldn’t help but think about all the scoring opportunities that floated awry.
For nearly 77 minutes Friday afternoon at the University of Tampa’s Pepin Stadium, the Wolves teetered on the edge of disaster. The nation’s No. 2 team by ESPN Rise trailed No. 25 Seminole by one goal despite controlling the pace of play throughout the game.
A deficit never seen before needed a comeback equally as rare.
The Wolves stormed back to score three times in the final 3:14 of regulation — with Haumschild netting the first two — stunning the Warhawks 3-1 in the Class 5A state girls soccer semifinals.
“They were going to keep pushing and pushing,” Newsome coach Kelly Townsend said. “It’s just like practice, they push and push until they’re about to collapse but they’ll never let anyone know they’re about to collapse.”
Newsome (25-0) faces No. 7 St. Thomas Aquinas today at 1:35 p.m. to claim its stake for a mythical national title.
But first, the Wolves needed a valiant comeback against a playoff-tested Warhawks (22-3-1) team looking to play in its second straight 5A final.
“Our hearts were pounding,” Wolves junior Shea Rhoney said. “We just kept trying to the end. We had been down before, but not like this.”
Newsome outshot Seminole 8-1, and the Wolves had 13 corner kicks on the day, with most of them harmlessly drifting long in the wind. But Newsome’s final two corners set the table for the Wolves’ remarkable comeback.
With 3:14 left, Rhoney placed a perfect kick from the far corner lined low and evaded the jet stream, just high enough for Haumschild to make a jumping header just inside the near post.
Then in the game’s final minute, Caroline Evers launched a corner from the near side that was headed toward the net by Jackie Simpson into a crowd of players where Haumschild was able to toe kick a third effort past floored Seminole keeper Jackie Aiosa, who Seminole coach Steve Kuplicki said "carried the team on her shoulders the entire second half."
“They were putting a lot of pressure on, but we were doing so well and I thought we could hold it,” said Seminole junior Gina Hayduke, who scored Seminole's only goal in the 16th minute. “It just got jumbled in the middle, and it was like we were running with our heads cut off."
With 18 seconds left, Rhoney converted a penalty kick that was rewarded when Haumschild was brought down in the box.
“It was so frustrating because we knew we could do it,” Haumschild said. “We had so many opportunities. I had three or four in the first half and they were just so close. We knew we were better than them. We knew we could beat them, but sometimes they just don’t go in for you. Whenever those two went in, it was just amazing.”
After Newsome beat then-No. 4 George Jenkins in last week’s region final, stopping a run of three straight postseason losses to the Eagles, Townsend said there was no obstacle her team couldn’t overcome.
Today, the Wolves can win their first state championship — and possibly more — but Townsend said their focus isn’t on winning a national championship.
“It is another game,” Townsend said. “That’s the way we have to look at it. This is the furthest any team has gone in our school history.
“We’re 25-0 and if we lose tomorrow we’re 25-1? Please. I don’t even know how to explain it. ESPN is just a number.”