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TAMPA — It was both heart stopping and heartbreaking, which made it all the more amazing.
Newsome waiting until the last possible second — or more accurately, the last possible 194 seconds — to pull out a 3-1 win Friday afternoon in the Class 5A state semifinals.
Liz Haumschild scoring on a perfect header after trying to do so diligently all game.
Haumschild then sticking her toe through a clump of players to score again.
Shea Rhoney converting a penalty kick.
It took all of 194 seconds to turn a defeat into the most stunning victory of this year’s state soccer tournament,.
And it took that long to break the hearts of Seminole, who was outplayed much of the afternoon, and despite looking tired and scrambled only needed to survive a few more seconds — or more accurately survive 194 more seconds — to hang on to a big upset.
Then all of the above happened, Haumschild and Rhoney and all that craziness, to steal victory away.
• • •
No one has worse luck than Seminole at state.
The Warhawks once hosted a state championship in 1989 and lost on a penalty kick with 12 minutes left.
The next year they were undefeated and lost in the semifinals on a goal with 13 minutes left.
Last year in the final, they lost their leading scorer to a red card and still managed to get a goal with two minutes remaining to force a tie before losing in double overtime to the No. 1 team in the country.
But this — 194 seconds — just seemed cruel.
“Newsome never let up,” said keeper Jackie Aiosa.
Even after tying. Even after taking a 2-1 lead. The Wolves never stopped coming.
Aiosa answered questions afterward, but only after admitting she was doing so while holding back tears.
• • •
Forget the fact that Newsome trailed for 76 minutes and 46 seconds Friday afternoon — the Wolves were clearly the better team.
The Wolves kept the pressure on all game. They were a touch faster, a bit more physical and a smidgen more elegant, able to move the ball up and down the field crisply.
They weren’t, however, perfect, which is why they went into the final moments desperate.
Today, they get to play for a state championship, and a national one as well.
The Wolves, ranked No. 2 in the latest ESPN Rise national poll, will take on Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, who beat the former No. 1 on their journey to the final, at 1:35 p.m.
Newsome coach Kelly Townsend said she was looking at it as “just another game. Our last game.”
Uh huh. Okay.
Remember, this is the same coach that said her team would be “unstoppable” the rest of the way after beating Lakeland George Jenkins in the region final.
So, a new rule: you can’t call your No. 2-ranked team unstoppable, then claim that winning a national championship isn’t on your mind.
In fact, it may be the Wolves’ destiny.
Consider: they haven’t lost or tied, they got over the Jenkins Jinx after three straight seasons of being knocked out of the playoffs by the Eagles, then those 194 seconds happened Friday.
• • •
No. 1 in the state, in the country, is just around the corner kick.
“It’s just a number,” Townsend said. “Who knows what that really means.”
We can debate the usefulness of polls, but this is the one we have. And right now, Newsome is No. 2, and soon, they could be No. 1.
What does that mean?
There’s a pretty good chance that to the Newsome players, it would mean a lot.