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NEW PORT RICHEY — River Ridge was bound to score against Hudson. The Royal Knights relentlessly took 25 shots, 14 on goal, but keeper Lisa Jadick stymied River Ridge repeatedly.
After tempering frustrations and finding patience, River Ridge’s Sarah Olin finally broke through, scoring in the 60th minute to give her team a 1-0 victory Wednesday night.
River Ridge (15-4-1) advances to the Class 3A, District 8 final and returns to regionals for the seventh consecutive year. “(Jadick) did very well,” River Ridge coach Skip Glover said. “Olin put some balls on her that a lot of people would be afraid of.”
In the 44th minute, Nicole Screnock got loose on a breakaway, but Jadick was in position to make a great save. Jadick stood tall again in the 54th minute, saving an Olin free kick from 20 yards out. River Ridge’s Kendra Secrest tried to score on the rebound, but Jadick swallowed up the ball. She finished with 13 saves.
“I was getting frustrated because (Jadick) was doing good and I think she really kept (Hudson) in the game,” Olin said.
Olin finally put the ball in the back of the net when Laura Cason centered a perfect pass in the box.
“I give all of the credit to Laura,” Olin said. “It was the perfect ball with no one around me.”
Hudson (16-5) had an opportunity in the 76th minute when River Ridge’s Grace Markunas misplayed a ball, allowing Dominique Cirnigliaro a one-on-one with goalkeeper Brittany Wilkins, but she missed wide right.
On Friday, River Ridge faces Mitchell (19-1-1), which cruised to a 5-0 victory over Gulf (12-7-1). Gulf held Mitchell scoreless in the first half, but the flood gates quickly opened. Baylor Cherry scored twice, followed by goals from Amanda Hayes, Kailin Torres and Danielle Gottwik.
3A-7: Cinderella run continues for Wesley Chapel
ZEPHYRHILLS — History was made in one Class 3A, District 7 semifinal and denied in another Wednesday night at Bulldog Stadium.
Wesley Chapel, the top seed for the first time in school history, defeated Sunlake 2-0 to advance to Friday’s final and earned its first region berth.
Land O’Lakes, which has never lost to Zephyrhills three times in a single season, avenged two regular-season losses to the Bulldogs with a 2-0 win.
The Wildcats (9-10) and Gators (13-6-3) will play in the championship Friday at 7 p.m.
“It’s incredible,” said Wesley Chapel coach Michelle Clark, a former Land O’Lakes goalkeeper (Class of 1998). “I am beyond excited. I said (to the team) you have an opportunity to bring home a trophy. We’ve never done that.”
Wesley Chapel, 3-18 last season, got goals from Briana Rosario and Theresa Gemberling, whose corner kick set up Rosario’s goal. Kelsey Bare assisted on Gemberling’s score.
Wesley Chapel goalkeeper Aspen Cooper, a three-year starter, earned the shutout after Sunlake (7-9-6) could not muster much on offense.
Land O’Lakes, a perennial playoff team ousted in last year’s district semifinals, scored once in each half on goals by Catherine Gray and Alyssa Longway.
Gray gave the Gators a 1-0 lead in the 28th minute by putting back a rebound off Zephyrhills keeper Jessica Relyea, who saved Gray’s initial shot. Longway made it 2-0 in the 74th minute, scoring on a kick that eluded Relyea and trickled in off the left post.
Land O’Lakes keeper Ariana Bailey came up with several key stops, including a point-blank save on Sarah Denney’s partial breakaway from the right side.
Zephyrhills (9-9-2) had an apparent goal by Denney, who later was carried off the field with an injured right knee, disallowed on an offsides call in the first half.
3A-6: Nature Coast breaks through
INVERNESS — With Wednesday’s win at Citrus in the Class 3A, District 6 semifinals, Nature Coast matched the number of postseason wins in program history over the past two days. The Sharks earned their first region berth with a 2-1 win over Citrus.
Nature Coast (16-1-1) had a 2-8 record in district play coming into this season.
“We’ve had the potential to do this for the past three seasons, but we fell short,” Nature Coast coach Lisa Masserio said. “We needed to ratchet up the competitiveness, and the girls responded and saw what was possible.”
Nature Coast’s Paige Kuhn scored the first goal after the teams went into halftime scoreless. Kuhn received a corner kick and found a crease to slide the ball into the net and put the Sharks up 1-0.
Citrus (14-4) quickly answered, but with only five minutes remaining, Sylvanna Paonessa, the team’s second-leading scorer, dropped in the winner on a breakaway.
“All the girls were really excited, but because we have that one-game-at-a-time attitude, some of them didn’t know what comes next,”
Masserio said. “They knew we played for the district title, but I had to tell them to clear their schedules for next week because we’d be playing in a regional playoff game.”
The Sharks’ next test is top-seeded Eustis (15-3). The Panthers beat Leesburg (12-5-3) 6-1 to get to the championship game. Nature Coast beat Eustis earlier this season.
“I think we’re going to see a slightly different team this time around,” Masserio said. “We were missing one player, and they were missing a few, too. When they’re full strength, they have great speed and skill up front.”
4A-4: Lecanto takes out Springstead
Springstead fell in the Class 4A, District 4 semifinals Wednesday night at Ocala Vanguard, losing 4-1 to top-seeded Lecanto and ending a two-season run as district champion.
Springstead (10-9-1) dropped both games to the Panthers (14-4-2) in the regular season by a combined 8-0 score, but came out strong this time around.
Leading scorer Kimberly Smith nearly scored in the opening minute and that momentum carried the team.
“Realistically, we should have lost 4-3, but we couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had,” first-year Springstead coach Scott Wern said. “It was very frustrating.”
Among the miscues for Springstead were five yellow cards assessed to the squad.
The Eagles logged their lone goal when a shot from Kayla Montealegre hit the back of the net on an assist from Madison Whitmill.
Other than Smith (17 goals), the Eagles’ roster should be intact next season.
“The morale is high already,” Wern said. “We should be in good shape for next season with so many of the girls coming back.”
Lecanto faces Forest (17-5-1) for the district title after the Wildcats snagged an upset 2-0 win in their semifinal over Vanguard (13-3-7).
4A-8: Wiregrass Ranch bounced after PKs
TAMPA — After 100 minutes of play, including two 10-minute, golden goal overtime periods Wednesday, Freedom and Wiregrass Ranch were knotted at one goal apiece.
It took until the second round of penalty kicks to break the deadlock , as Freedom sophomore defender Dana Jones sent her kick straight ahead through the hands of the leaping Wiregrass Ranch goalkeeper 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 last year. “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 . 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’s Emily Ball out toward the top of the box with a shot, and Waters collected her own rebound and buried shot into the right corner . Freedom was limited to one shot in the second half .
Freedom will face No. 1 seed Steinbrenner, which beat 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.”
Staff writer Laura Keeley and correspondents Steve Lee and Derek J. LaRiviere contributed to this report.