This week, the Times’ high school staff reflects on the best high school sporting event each writer covered in the 2010-11 school year. Bob Putnam looks back at St. Petersburg Catholic's 1-0 state girls soccer semifinal win Feb. 10.
One of the best games of this past high school season recovered from a tedious start to provide a dramatic finish.
The Class 3A state semifinal between St. Petersburg Catholic and Orlando Lake Highland Prep was stretched to the limit. The teams played on through regulation and two 10-minute overtimes with no score.
So the game went to penalty kicks.
A team rarely finds a shootout to be a satisfying conclusion, but the tension of the PK round rescued a semifinal that often lacked offensive punch.
The Barons prevailed 1-0 after outlasting the Highlanders 3-1 on penalty kicks.
St. Petersburg Catholic appeared confident and decisive as Olivia Wilkinson, Genevieve DiVito and Elizabeth Prather each connected. But the Barons pulled through on the instinct and reaction of goalkeeper Maggie Dalessio.
And it was Dalessio’s performance that made the game so memorable.
While Lake Highland’s goalkeeper seemed slightly awed by playing in her first state tournament, Dalessio was self-assured. The junior bounced in front of the goal, arms raised, appearing larger than her 5-foot-9 height.
Dalessio guessed correctly on nearly every shot, diving to smother bouncers and punching away others.
With the Highlanders down to their final attempt, Dalessio wrapped her arms around the ball with yet another save, setting off a wild celebration. But the officials ruled otherwise, saying Dalessio illegally stepped forward before the shot.
Lake Highland got another shot.
And it was stuffed by Dalessio again.
The crowd erupted and SPC players rushed from midfield and the sideline to pile on Dalessio in celebration.
Dalessio’s play was critical for the Barons throughout their improbable postseason run. Heading into districts with a losing record, SPC stunned state power and rival Clearwater Central Catholic in the district semifinals to get into the postseason.
After that, the Barons kept winning. And winning.
They recorded six straight shutouts in advancing to the state tournament for the first time.
A stifling defense played a major part in that string of postseason zeroes and came up big again in the semifinals to force overtime and extend the game to penalty kicks.
Dalessio did the rest.
In the championship the following night, SPC lost to nationally ranked Miami Gulliver Prep. But the Barons were able to get that far thanks to the resolve of Dalessio in goal, whose sure hands helped her team prevail on the nervous and theatrical caprice of penalty kicks.
Other great games from this past season
1. Softball, Canterbury 1, Boca Raton Grandview Prep 0: Pinch-runner Kelsey Hill scored off a hit by Julia Cieutat in the eighth inning of the Class A state championship to give the Crusaders their first state title in any sport.
2. Boys basketball, Gibbs 53, Chamberlain 44: Thanks to Quincy Ford’s team-high 22 points, the Gladiators got off to a fast start then held off a furious rally to win a Class 5A region final and advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 1990.
3. Girls basketball, Lakewood 53, Pensacola 44: Spartans coach Necole Tunsil guided her team to a win in the Class 4A state championship. It was the first time Lakewood had won a state title in girls basketball since Tunsil did it as a player in 1989.