ST. PETERSBURG — Moments earlier, the Shorecrest girls soccer team was equal parts dismayed and disheartened.
Less than 60 seconds from its first state semifinal since 2007, the Chargers allowed a late, equalizing goal to Community School of Naples to send their Class A, Region 2 final into overtime tied 2-2. Thoughts of the previous season, when a penalty kick prevented the Chargers from the region title, crept in.
But with one nod of her head, Shorecrest senior Sarah Zolper sent her teammates and the home crowd into hysterics.
In the third minute of overtime, Sophie Wiltshire sent a corner kick toward the back post, and Zolper powered a header past Seahawks goalkeeper Melissa Eklund to give the Chargers a 3-2 victory and a place in the state semifinals.
"It was instinct when I saw it," Zolper said. "I knew that could be the chance."
Olivia Rovin's goal in the 74th minute gave the Chargers (19-2) a 2-1 lead. Caitlin Allweiss kept the ball alive near the right corner flag and centered it for Rovin, whose shot hit the left post and into the goal.
Community School (20-4-2) remained determined, and was rewarded when Abby Kastroll dribbled from midfield toward the right edge of the box, crossed toward the far post and Tatiana Zuloaga slotted the equalizer into goal with 54 seconds remaining.
"That was a gut shot," Shorecrest coach Neal Wolfrath said.
In the 20th minute, Zolper blasted a free kick from 25 yards that took a slight deflection off of a defender and into the goal.
Chargers goalkeeper Natalie Zolper (five saves) kept the Seahawks off the scoreboard in the first half with two point-blank stops, the first coming 45 seconds after her twin sister scored and the second two minutes later on a shot from Zuloaga.
The Seahawks broke through in the 54th minute, though, when Gabby Demarest volleyed a shot past the Chargers keeper. From there, the match swung back-and-forth until Sarah Zolper finished it with her forehead.
"Finally," she said. "We've been waiting for this. We wanted it so badly."
3A: Largo ousted
LARGO — At the start of the season, Largo coach Dan Flynn aimed for the state final four.
The Packers played as many tough teams in Pinellas County as possible. And after winning the district and surviving two playoff games, Largo reached its first region final since 1997, on the brink of its first state semifinal since 1986.
But Merritt Island, a program with five final four appearances in the past 13 seasons, proved to have too much experience, defeating Largo 3-0 on Friday in the Class 3A region final.
"Merritt Island is an excellent soccer, easily the best we've played all year," Flynn said. "Their coach told me before the game they have 18 players who are on club teams. We're not there yet. I could tell about midway through the first half that this one was going to be awfully tough for us."
A steady mist turned into fog, which could have worked to Largo's advantage with the wet field neutralizing some of Merritt Island's speed. But the Packers missed midfielder Morgan Power, who sprained her ankle and knee in Tuesday's semifinal win over Robinson.
The Mustangs adapted to the conditions, scoring once in the first half and twice in the second.
Afterward, the Packers were hardly devastated. Most smiled, issued high-fives and took pictures together. They can take solace in knowing they have a future together with only four of 19 players on the roster graduating.
"I told the girls at the beginning of the season that we make it far in the playoffs," Flynn said. "They kind of hemmed and hawed but after while they started believing it."
Bob Putnam, Times staff writer