SEMINOLE — Osceola held on Friday night for a 1-0 victory over host Seminole for the Class 4A-10 district crown, the Warriors' third straight district title. And the fact that it came against rival Seminole (20-4-1) on its own field, where the Warriors had lost 1-0 earlier in the season, made it all the sweeter.
"This was a huge deal; everyone at school has been talking about (the match)," junior defender Gabby Holcombe said. "We knew what we had to do to have home-field advantage in the playoffs."
The Warriors (13-2-2) will indeed have home field as they host East Bay on Thursday in the region quarterfinals. But on a night when defense ruled, Holcombe reigned supreme.
"(Holcombe) is the whole backbone of the defense; she controls that back line," Warriors coach Anatol Popovich said. "Stellar. She was stellar tonight."
Holcombe was lights out defending the Warrior 18. There was one lapse where Seminole's Olivia Red got past her and a scuffle for the box ensued. Red went down and there was no call, and that was as close as Seminole would come.
Both team defenses were stout in preserving a scoreless first half. Four minutes into the second half, Warrior Danielle Putnam got possession inside the Warhawk 18 and drilled it just over the outstretched hands of keeper Bria Riancho.
Putnam found a little more breathing room in the second half as the Warhawks moved stingy defender Matia Payne off the back line to produce more offense. Payne launched several attacks in the second half but her absence on the back line opened a window for Putnam.
" (Payne) is a solid back player and always on the ball," Putnam said. "(When she moved) it opened up in the middle."
3A-10: Largo hits fast, tops rival
LARGO — Late arrivals to the Class 3A-10 girls soccer final might have missed all of the scoring but they didn't miss any of the intensity.
In what has become an emotional rivalry in a short time, top seed Largo and No. 2 Tarpon Springs ratcheted up the muscle and went after each other hard for the entire 80 minutes.
But the tipping point came in the first minute. Junior centerback Ashley Blanchard stopped a Spongers clearing pass on the offensive side of the center circle, settled the ball, then launched a rocket that dipped just under the crossbar, over goaltender Alyssa Mastracchio's left shoulder and into the net.
Mastracchio and Largo counterpart Aubanie Higdon were equal to the rare offensive surges the rest of the way to create a 1-0 victory and the Packers' first district crown in five years.
"I've been practicing a lot during the season with these high shots," said Blanchard, who teamed with senior Shaila Hepburn to shut out Ali Ward, Tarpon Springs' top scorer. "I wasn't really aiming for that upper 90, but I knew I was going to rip that shot."
Behind Kyla Kreemer and junior Kennedy Flynn, Largo (13-6-5) carried the first-half play. In the final 40 minutes, Tarpon Springs (8-7-1) rode savvy ball handling from Ward and Allysa Young to some good scoring attempts. And the more saves the keepers registered, the more desperate and physical the game got. Five yellow cards were handed out in the second half alone.
"It's been nip-and-tuck for the past two years," veteran Spongers coach John Freiermuth said. "The regular season (a 2-1 Largo win) was like this. These teams play hard-fought games."
"I think the girls were a little stressed about the physicality of the game," Largo coach Dan Flynn said. "There were some nerves on our part, then some intimidation, and I think we got a little defensive. This (the district title) was our goal from the very beginning and I think we can play even better going into sectionals."
A-6: Chargers notch shutout
Shorecrest went undefeated against its Class A, District 6 counterparts this season, winning every game by at least four goals.
But the Chargers needed a strong second half to pull away in a 4-0 victory over Calvary Christian in the district title game.
"It was very tight in the first half," Shorecrest coach Neal Wolfrath said. "We were ahead by just a goal. Calvary outplayed us to that point. In the second half, we were able to control the tempo and keep the ball on their side."
Sarah Zolper scored Shorecrest's only goal in the first half. Sophie Wiltshire had two goals and Jade Caswell added one in the second half.
Staff writer Bob Putnam and correspondent Chuck Frye contributed to this report.