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EAST LAKE — Penalty kicks, you either love them or hate them, especially as a way to settle a game. This morning, East Lake is probably hating them.
After getting the best of play for 100 scoreless minutes of regulation and two overtimes, the Eagles watched their state title hopes fade away as Oviedo won the PK battle and the game 4-3 in front of a large, boisterous East Lake crowd in Friday’s Class 5A state semifinal. It was the second straight year East Lake’s season ended on PKs.
Oviedo sophomore keeper Reagan Funaro stopped Eagles senior Megan Kelly to put the Lions into their third state title game in six years. It was that first appearance, in 2008, that may have played a role in Oviedo’s victory. The Lions lost on penalty kicks, and coach Scott Waisanen vowed to never let that happen again. In 2011, Oviedo won the state title on penalty kicks.
Since regular-season games don’t go to PKs, every year the Lions begin practicing the month before the playoffs. Waisanen estimates that each player on his team has taken 50-75 penalty kicks in practice, and that Funaro has faced at least 1,000 the past month.
“It’s all about body angle and how they line up,” said Funaro, who was so good guessing where East Lake would kick the ball that she actually overran two of the shots. But on Kelly’s kick, she kicked it to Funaro’s left, like three other Eagles had, and it was an easy save as the ball didn’t have much pace on it.
“I think she was trying to place it too much and forgot to get the power on it,” the Lions keeper said.
It was a tough loss to swallow for East Lake coach Sergei Stopek. His team was the aggressor most of the match, and came close on a few shots, including one off the crossbar, while Oviedo kept more players back and seemed perfectly content to wait for counters that rarely came.
But while the Eagles (24-5) got the best of the action, the Lions (15-6-3) had the best chance. In the final minutes of the first overtime, freshman Payton Grewall got free for a one-on-one that looked like certain doom for East Lake. But Grewall waited a second too long to shoot as keeper Ashleigh Linse came out and smothered the attempt.
“I still can’t get over the breakaway. Ashleigh came up so big. I thought we had the momentum,” Stopek said. “I’m still in disbelief.”
3A: Familiar foe and result for Osceola
PLANTATION — For 40 minutes, Osceola looked like it might avenge last season’s lopsided loss to American Heritage in the Class 3A state semifinals.
But 25 seconds into the second half, the Patriots broke through against the Warriors’ packed-in defense, and added another goal four minutes later on their way to a 3-0 win.
“The first half, we were doing very well,” said Warriors coach Anatol Popovich, whose team lost to Heritage 6-0 on the same stage last year. “The second half, that second goal kind of hurt us a little bit. The girls played well. They got some good shots.”
In the opening seconds of the second half, Heritage sophomore Melanie Monteagudo crossed to Martha Thomas, who punched in the Patriots’ first goal. Four minutes later, Alyssa Robinson took advantage of a Warriors turnover to put Heritage up 2-0.
“It was a little frustrating, but at the end of the day, we don’t give up,” said Thomas, a junior who missed more than a more of playing time early in the season with a hyperextended knee. “In the second half, we came out strong, scoring in the first couple of minutes. We get one, we break teams down, and that’s just how we work.”
Heritage, the 2010 state champions who lost last year’s championship to Ponte Vedra on penalty kicks, faces the Sharks again on Saturday at Melbourne High. The Patriots are seeking their seventh state title since 2000.
Last season, making their first state semifinal appearance in nearly a decade, the Warriors (19-2-1) fell into a big deficit early.
“I think it’s a very big improvement — a tremendous improvement over last year,” Popovich said. “We were composed, we worked the ball. A couple of mistakes here and there, and that hurts against a good team like this.”
Thomas added a second goal on a header on Robinson’s cross with 8:20 to play for her eighth goal in her last four games.
The Patriots (25-2), who have given up just six goals all season, won their region semifinal and final games by a combined score of 10-0, and their district semis and championship by a combined 12-0.
One of Heritage’s best chances came when Osceola’s Shalia Roland and Gabrielle Holcombe collided on defense, leading to a Patriots break with 13:15 left in the first half. After Monteagudo’s shot was deflected, Julia Jaffe was there for the rebound, but pushed the shot wide right.
Four minutes later, the Warriors got a rare scoring chance after a foul 15 yards from the goal, but Cassidy Reich’s free kick was wide left.
Melinda Waldrop, Times correspondent