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TAMPA — After 100 minutes of play, including intermittent rain and two 10-minute, golden goal overtime periods Wednesday night, Freedom and Wiregrass Ranch were knotted at one goal apiece.
And it took until the second round of penalty kicks to break the deadlock, as Freedom sophomore defender Dana Jones sent her kick straight through the hands of the leaping Dayton Wetherby to give the Patriots the 1-1 (5-4 PKs) victory in the second round of the Class 4A, District 8 tournament.
“We’ve been working on this for a long time,” Jones said of penalty kicks, which ended Freedom’s season in last year’s playoffs. “I was confident, so as long as I’m confident, I can do it.”
The Patriots, the No. 2 seed, opened the scoring in the 20th minute, as senior Jenna Stiling drew Wetherby out to the top edge of the box. Stiling managed to poke her shot past Wetherby, and the two collided in a heap on the ground.
Forward Leah Stiling, Jenna’s sister, took control of the ball and put it past a Bulls defender who had run to the center of the net. The half ended with the teams tied with two shots each.
Wiregrass Ranch, the No. 3 seed, answered in the second half with a goal by junior Berlin Waters. She drew Freedom goalkeeper Emily Ball, a South Carolina commit, out toward the top of the box with a shot, and Waters collected her rebound and buried the right-footed shot into the right corner.
Freedom was limited to one shot in the second half, and the teams traded chances in the two overtime periods.
Freedom will face No. 1 seed Steinbrenner, which beat No. 4 seed Gaither 2-0, in the final Friday. In three past meetings, the teams have fought to a draw.
“Last game we played them we didn’t have a lot of our starters, and I was playing with a hamstring injury,” said senior Taylor Valley, who scored both of the Warriors’ goals. “So, yes, we do want to play them.”