LUTZ — Steinbrenner set a standard of winning few established programs can claim, let alone a school in its first year of existence.
The Warriors came into Tuesday's Class 4A region semifinal against Lakewood Ranch facing their toughest test of the season. Both teams were unbeaten — complete with lineups full of speedy scorers and resumes full of lopsided wins.
Steinbrenner has no seniors, no players facing the possibility of their final high school game, but it looked that way after the Warriors' first loss of the season was their last in a 2-1 defeat, with players hugging each other with tears in their eyes.
"We were learning as the game went along," Steinbrenner coach Teresa Patterson said. "We played our best in the second half. I looked them in the eye and told them that will be you next year."
With a team that started four freshmen and two sophomores, it's likely this group will be back.
Steinbrenner (18-1-2) fell behind 2-0 just 30 minutes into the game, with Lakewood Ranch scoring on a Kaitlyn Wolfe rebound in the 16th minute and a Sarah Miller header 14 minutes later.
The Warriors answered two minutes later with a goal by freshman Marley Opila, her 16th of the season.
That was the only scoring, but the game was decided by the Mustangs' team speed. Steinbrenner was willing to play a physical game in the second half, but Lakewood Ranch (18-0-2) closed in on every Warriors scoring opportunity, especially when they dropped Miller back.
"I think she might be the fastest player I've seen in the state of Florida," Patterson said of Miller. "They were the best team we've played all year."
Said Lakewood Ranch coach Guy Virgilio: "We knew they were a very good passing team. But we thought we could take advantage of our speed and get our forwards behind them. We won tonight against a great team."
Steinbrenner's second-half surge wasn't aided by a pair of yellow cards in the final 13 minutes.