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LUTZ — Senior Berlin Waters rescued top-seeded Wiregrass Ranch, scoring both goals including the winner 4:05 into sudden death as the Bulls beat Sickles 2-1 Wednesday night. Host Steinbrenner had a much easier time in the second 4A-8 semifinal defeating Gaither 6-1.
Credit Sickles for making Wiregrass Ranch’s night a shaky one. Nichole Amador’s goal in the eighth minute stunned the Bulls, who had beaten Sickles 5-0 during the regular season.
“We were like, ‘Is this really happening?’ We knew we had to pick up the pace,” said USF-bound Wiregrass forward A.J. Blount.
Sickles took the 1-0 lead to halftime then packed into a defensive stance. But with 15 minutes left the Bulls (18-2) saw their frantic efforts rewarded.
After a wild sequence that saw the Bulls get off six shots, Waters poked in what was a third rebound try off a corner kick. The six shots equalled Sickles’ total for the night, compared with 31 for Wiregrass Ranch.
“I was freaking out; there were so many players packed in the box and the ball was just bobbling around,” said Waters.
In overtime Sickles (7-6-1) moved Sam Knowles back into an offensive position and in the opening minute she drew a foul just outside the penalty box. But her free kick sailed a couple feet over the net. A minute later Sickles goalie Brooke Salas made her fifth point-blank save of the night.
But shortly after Blount turned and fired a shot that went square off the right post then bounce directly to Waters for the tap-in.
“We went down with a fight,” said Sickles standout defender Jada Humphries.
Steinbrenner (14-4) looked sharp in running out to a 4-0 halftime lead. Danielle Eule and Alexis Bredeau had two goals apiece with Jessie Taylor and Madison Whitmill getting the others.
Gaither (7-6-3) got on the board with 12 minutes left on the longest score of the night, a 30-yard free kick by Haley Knowles.
Both winners are playoff-bound and will meet for the district title Friday. It will offer Steinbrenner a chance for revenge against the last team it lost to. Since Wiregrass won 3-2 on Nov. 16 Steinbrenner has reeled off 11 straight victories.
2A-9: Berkeley, Holy Names stumble
CLEARWATER — Clearwater Central Catholic defeated Berkeley Prep 2-0 in the Class 2A, District 9 semifinals.
CCC (8-10-2) will host rival St. Petersburg Catholic in Friday’s championship game. The Barons advanced with a 4-1 victory over Academy of the Holy Names.
CCC wasted little time keeping its streak alive in district play as Abigail Harkins scored off a rebound within the first 25 seconds. Katie Englert scored on a penalty kick in the second for the Marauders’ other goal.
“It’s always a close game with Berkeley Prep, and I think it helped to get ahead so quickly,” Marauders coach Tom Typrowicz said. “It means so much to win this game because we also get to advance to the playoffs.”
In the other semifinal, top-seeded St. Petersburg Catholic led 2-1 at the half before breaking open the game with two goals in the final 40 minutes.
Meggie Dougherty-Howard, the Barons’ captain, scored two of her team’s goals. The others were by Erin Hillman and Ashley Mevoli. SPC (14-3) has been dominant in district play, beating the other four teams in the regular season by a combined score of 20-3.
Staff writer Bob Putnam contributed to this report.