LAKELAND — For most of the Newsome players on the frozen field of George Jenkins on Saturday evening, this was the first time the Class 5A powerhouse stood in their way of making the state tournament.
Most watched from the bench during last year's loss, and in the beginning of this season, a repeat trip seemed unlikely as the Wolves replaced nine starters.
But Newsome played with the nation's No. 3 team, according to ESPNRise, on Saturday.
"We had nothing to lose," Newsome coach Kelly Townsend said. "The pressure wasn't on us."
In the end, George Jenkins ended Newsome's season in the region final for the third straight year, this time 4-2.
"We matched them goal for goal in the second half," Townsend said. "If we didn't spot them two goals in the first it could have been different."
Newsome (17-5-5) fell behind 2-0 at the half on a pair of goals by sophomore Theresa Butler.
Wolves sophomore Jackie Simpson cut the lead to one in the 47th minute, heading in Caroline Evers' free kick. But less than a minute later, Victoria Abnathy scored her first of two goals, driving across the goal and booting a left-footed shot from 20 yards out to give Jenkins (23-0-1) a 3-1 lead.
"It was very important," George Jenkins coach Joe Lenard said of the quick answer. "It showed the kind of character we have. They say 2-0 is the lead you don't want to have."
Abnathy scored again at the 58th minute on another left-handed shot from far out.
Six minutes later, sophomore Liz Haumschild headed in another kick from Evers. Evers, the Wolves' free and corner kick specialist, had two other shots at the goal that Eagles keeper Caitlyn Currie was able to corral.
The Eagles have lost just one game in the past three years, to Palm Harbor University in last year's 5A state championship.