The Lakewood girls soccer team handled both the pressure of a state semifinal game and the offensive pressure of the top-ranked 3A team in the state to defeat Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas 2-1 Friday night at Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium.
Lakewood (22-1-2) will face Rockledge, a 3-2 semifinal winner over Jacksonville Bolles, at 2 p.m. today for the state 3A championship.
The Spartans bent but never broke. They were outshot 31-4 _ 14-0 in the second half _ and goalkeeper Sara Kesler recorded 16 saves.
"It was like a shooting gallery, and I felt like one of the ducks," said Kesler. "I expected the pressure, but was surprised by how much."
"They are the number one team in the state," said Lakewood coach Bill Carter. "We knew they had some people who could score and we expected the pressure."
It was the Spartans who took the lead only four minutes into the game on Kristin Dobbs' header.
Fifteen minutes later, Lakewood went up 2-0 when Julie Shramek stole a clearing pass, took the ball up the middle and drilled a shot into the left corner of the goal.
It wasn't until the 58th minute that the Raiders (27-1-0) got their first goal. Jean Sutton's header off a corner kick narrowed the Spartan's lead to 2-1, but the Raiders could not get the equalizer.
"We had a lot of chances," said Aquinas coach Thomas Giron. "We dominated the game. There's not much more we could have done."