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5A region soccer: Gaither 1, Naples Gulf Coast 0, 2 OT

TAMPA — Kelly Cuppett's nickname is "PK."

"It's kind of my thing," she said. "My claim to fame."

The Gaither junior lived up to her billing Tuesday, converting the winning penalty kick late in the second overtime to give the Cowboys a 1-0 sudden-death win over Naples Gulf Coast.

The district runnerup Cowboys (12-5-2) advanced to their first region final since 2005.

Cuppett's winning shot came just seconds before Gaither's postseason fate would have been decided by a shootout. But just before 100 minutes of scoreless soccer was complete, a foul was called in the penalty box, awarding Gaither a PK.

Cuppett aimed to her right, just inside the near post, and her shot went just past the arms of Sharks keeper Kaeta Choquette, prompting an emphatic celebration inside the goal box.

"Honestly, if you get it far enough in the corner, it doesn't matter," said Cuppett, who would have been Gaither's first shooter had the game gone to a shootout.

Gaither couldn't muster the same quick-strike offense from set pieces that netted it a 2-1 upset win at Venice in the region quarterfinal, and neither team could drum up much offense in their respective attacking ends in the first half.

Gaither dodged a scare early in the second half, when Cowboys keeper Amanda High needed to dive to save an own goal in the box in the 43rd minute.

The Sharks had their share of close calls in the second half on failed Gaither set pieces.

Cowboys senior Lauren Moore then missed a free kick from 25 yards out just wide of the near post in the 49th minute.

Kaycee Mcguire's free kick from 35 yards out hit the top crossbar and bounced away harmlessly. Choquette then jumped out and made a punch save on a corner kick deflection and Taylor Meek's shot hit off the far post.

"We knew we were going to get a goal," Meek said. "We had the chances. We had the shots."

5A region soccer: Gaither 1, Naples Gulf Coast 0, 2 OT 02/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 12:05am]
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