TAMPA — One team entered the district playoffs as a prohibitive favorite to win a state title.
The other came in with a roster that included eight players who had been a part of a historic run toward a runnerup finish last season in the state championship.
By the time an ominous fog had enveloped the field on Berkeley Prep’s campus Wednesday, both those teams had had their
2010-11 seasons abruptly ended.
St. Petersburg Catholic began the night with a stunning 1-0 upset of Clearwater Central Catholic, which entered the game with a No. 31 ranking in the ESPN RISE national poll. The Barons’ Olivia Wilkinson scored with 15 minutes left as SPC (7-11) overcame a shot differential of 18-1 and advanced to the 3A-10 final, leaving the Marauders (18-2-1) shell-shocked.
“Things just didn’t fall into place for us,” Marauders coach Frank Seidl said. “We never felt the game would go the way it did. They (the Barons) played a perfect game and they’re moving on and we’re not. It couldn’t get more disappointing for the girls than to have the season come to a crashing halt like it did.”
The night ended with Tampa Catholic getting two spectacular goals from Michelle Bartholet as the Crusaders held on for a 2-1 victory over Berkeley Prep. Tampa Catholic’s Jill Watts earned her fifth win of the season as the junior keeper saved nine shots, including several in the final minutes.
“It was really intense down the stretch, and I couldn’t think about things too much except just to position myself the best way I could to prepare for all the shots they were taking,” Watts said. “I had some pretty extreme nerves at the beginning of the game, but once I took care of the first couple of shots, I just had to go for it the rest of the game.”
After Taylor Richardson gave the Buccaneers (9-8-1) a 1-0 lead early, Bartholet put the Crusaders (5-10-1) on the board with a line drive shot from the right side of the penalty box midway through the first half.
Bartholet then put in the eventual winner with about 20 minutes left in the game on a deflection when Buccaneers keeper Morgan Orobello tried to clear a back pass from a teammate that Bartholet timed perfectly and kicked in with her left foot.
“I thought I had a chance to get it and I just jumped in front of the ball and it went in,” said Bartholet, who sprained her ankle in the final minute and is questionable for Friday’s final. “We thought we had a chance going into this game because our coach has talked all season about how the districts are a different season and it’s a chance to shine. We used that to our advantage tonight.”