ST. PETERSBURG — Moments earlier, the Shorecrest girls soccer team was equal parts dismayed and disheartened.
Less than 60 seconds from its first state semifinal since 2007, the Chargers allowed a late, equalizing goal to Community School of Naples to send their Class A, Region 2 final into overtime tied 2-2. Thoughts of the previous season, when a penalty kick prevented the Chargers from the region title, crept in.
But with one nod of her head, Shorecrest senior Sarah Zolper sent her teammates and the home crowd into hysterics.
In the third minute of overtime, Sophie Wiltshire sent a corner kick toward the back post, and Zolper powered a header past Seahawks goalkeeper Melissa Eklund to give the Chargers a 3-2 victory and a place in the state semifinals.
“It was instinct when I saw it,” Zolper said. “I knew that could be the chance. It was a perfect ball in by Sophie, so I knew I had to finish it.”
Olivia Rovin’s goal in the 74th minute gave the Chargers (19-2) a 2-1 lead. Caitlin Allweiss kept the ball alive near the right corner flag and centered it for Rovin, whose shot hit the left post and into the goal.
Community School (20-4-2) remained determined, and was rewarded when Abby Kastroll dribbled from midfield toward the right edge of the box, crossed toward the far post and Tatiana Zuloaga slotted the equalizer into goal with 54 seconds remaining.
“That was a gut shot,” Shorecrest coach Neal Wolfrath said.
Shorecrest fired five shots at Eklund (eight saves) in the first 10 minutes. In the 20th, Zolper blasted a bouncing free kick from 25 yards that took a slight deflection off of a defender and into the goal.
Chargers goalkeeper Natalie Zolper (five saves) kept the Seahawks off the scoreboard in the first half with two point-blank stops, the first coming 45 seconds after her twin sister scored and the second two minutes later on a 12-yard breakaway shot from Zuloaga.
The Seahawks broke through in the 54th minute, though, when Gabby Demarest volleyed a shot past the Chargers keeper. From there, the match swung back-and-forth until Sarah Zolper finished it with her forehead.
“Finally,” she said. “We’ve been waiting for this. We wanted it so badly.”