CLEARWATER — Clearwater Central Catholic wanted to be known as the county's best team. It, admittedly, had its minds on Friday's home game against Seminole during Wednesday's 0-0 tie with Berkeley Prep.
Against the Warhawks, the Marauders demonstrated why they are in the ESPN Rise Fab 50 poll, pulling out a 2-1 victory over a squad without leading scorer Sierra Lelii and starters Alex Gunt and Gina Hayduke.
"(The tie) was kind of a wake-up call," said Kaitlin Parker, who put CCC up 2-0 on a header off a high-arcing pass from Kelly Shanahan 15 minutes into the second half. "We learned from that game that we have to play every game with the same type of intensity no matter who we play."
The Warhawks (15-2-1) can only imagine how different the game would have been with Lelii, who pulled her hamstring playing for her club team last week. Although Seminole was outshot 26-16, the visitors made things difficult.
After being held without a goal for most of the first half because of the outstanding play of keeper Jackie Aiosa, senior midfielder Jen Marzi put CCC (12-0-1) on the board. She gathered a pass from Lindsey Cooper just outside the penalty box, spun the ball around with her right foot and rifled a shot with her left that sailed into the right corner of the goal.
"We were ready to go, and it didn't matter who was playing for them," Marzi said. "We wanted to play with a different focus than we had (against Berkeley). We definitely wanted to prove that we had the best team in the county."
The Warhawks' tying goal in the first half was wiped out by offsides. Melanie Benner gave them their only goal, in the second half, with a low line drive off a rebound past Caroline Larach. The Marauders then stepped up the energy even more and had several chances to score. Marzi nearly adding two more goals, and Cooper hit Aiosa on three point-blank shots.
"I think we showed a lot of character in how we battled without the others," said Aiosa, who made 11 saves. "The way we continue fighting … will definitely help us down the road."