LITHIA — It took a decade, but Plant City is back in the postseason.
The Raiders broke open a tight match with a pair of second-half goals to defeat East Bay 2-0 to advance to next week’s playoffs for the first time since 2000.
“We got off to a slow start,” Plant City coach Justin Throneburg said. “The field was pretty sloppy, so I had a feeling in the second half when we were going in the other direction we’d get some better opportunities.”
With Wednesday’s win, the Raiders (14-4-1) are guaranteed a slot in the playoffs regardless of what happens in Friday’s district final against nationally ranked Newsome, an 8-0 winner in the other semifinal against Riverview. Plant City, which features 11 freshmen, has never won a postseason game.
“The girls all grew up playing club soccer in this area and they are well aware (Plant City) hasn’t been very good,” Throneburg said. “This freshman class wants to make a name for themselves.”
Both teams had a number of good opportunities in the scoreless first half. The Raiders’ Stephanie Galloway hit the crossbar in the 16th minute and East Bay’s Michelle Rodriguez was turned back on a breakaway with less than two minutes to play in the half.
“I thought we dominated play in the first half,” East Bay coach Rebecca Wickham said. “Especially the last 20 minutes.”
Ericka Lott’s volley in the 52nd minute after a Galloway corner kick put the Raiders ahead for good. Galloway then finished a well-played through ball from Christina Corzine in the 69th minute to cap the scoring.
Taylor Decaire, Karina Gutsche and Emily Jones each had two goals for Newsome (20-0-0), ranked No. 9 in the most recent ESPN RISE national poll.