GIBSONTON — Plant City's third straight win over East Bay for a district championship was like the others in that it came down to one goal. Unlike the previous two matches, however, Friday's 2-1 result ended in regulation and marked the Raiders' first three-peat in school history.
"God, it feels good — three in a row," Plant City coach Caleb Roberts said. "This has been a rivalry in our district for a few years."
Trailing 1-0, Plant City (18-2) scored late in the first half and got the go-ahead goal in the 42nd minute. The Raiders pressured the Indians in the first two minutes of the second half and it paid off when Ericka Lott banked in a shot off the far right post from just inside the penalty box for her team-leading 25th goal.
Despite being outshot 16-6, East Bay (8-6-2) struck first. Michelle Rodriguez corralled a long pass from Yasmin Bailie in the back and scored on a breakaway, tucking the ball under goalkeeper Taylor Michael for a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute.
"That's East Bay. They're not going to roll over," Roberts said. "All they need is a little seam."
Not long after East Bay keeper Caitlyn Northrup stopped Jenni Ruiz on a point-blank shot on a backdoor play, she could not prevent the tying goal in the 35th minute. Lott sent a through ball up to Stephanie Galloway, who cut in from the left side and beat Northrup with a low shot that snuck just inside the left post.
Northrup, who made nine saves, came up big on several Plant City shots, twice stopping redirected kicks from inside the box. She also got lucky when the Raiders clanked one shot off the crossbar and another off the left post.
4A-8: Gryphons gain no ground vs. No. 1
NEW PORT RICHEY — Mitchell was undefeated and ranked tops in its district. They Mustangs were hosting and had already beaten Sickles (8-5-1) 4-1 earlier this season. The Mustangs (22-0) proved they earned those advantages with a 5-0 shutout.
Noah Stokes scored the first goal of the game in the fifth minute. No one else was near the goal box when she lobbed the ball high. It sailed over keeper Brooke Salas' head and into the back of the net, giving the Mustangs an early lead.
UConn commit Danielle Gottwik scored nine minutes later. She and Salas stood practically nose-to-nose when Gottwik tapped the ball, nudging it past the line.
The Mustangs were granted a penalty kick in the 27th minute after a collision of players near Sickles' goal box. Sabrina Wagner sank the shot, giving the Mustangs a 3-0 lead they would take into halftime.
Sickles' keepers had their work cut out for them. Salas had 10 saves before Erin Garcia was subbed in with 29 minutes left. She added nine.
3A-9: Knights roll
Robinson continued its season-long domination of Middleton with a 6-0 victory in Friday's 3A-9 semifinal. The Knights (12-5) had earned 9-0 wins over Middleton (6-7) in their two previous meetings.
Robinson qualified for its third consecutive playoff appearance and fourth in the past five seasons. The Knights have 10 shutouts since the beginning of November.
Jefferson's season ended Friday in a 4-1 loss to Southeast in the Class 3A, District 9 semifinals. The Dragons finished their year 6-8, and Southeast will face Robinson in today's district championship. The Knights won that previous matchup 3-0 last month.
Staff writers Mary Kenney and Matt Baker contributed to this report.