With a noticeable breeze swirling around the Lockhart Stadium field, it seemed plausible Clearwater Central Catholic's state semifinal with Lake Highland Prep would be decided on a defensive breakdown.
But after 79 minutes and 48 seconds of scoreless soccer with neither team threatening Wednesday, no one could have predicted that breakdown would come with 12 seconds remaining.
In the game's closing moments, Lake Highland leading scorer Valorie O'Brien sent an innocent-looking ball into the box, just trying to put pressure on the Marauders goal. CCC keeper Mackenzie Kenner came off her line to grab the ball in midair but had it knocked away amid a scrum of players.
The ball bounced directly at the feet of Highlanders sophomore Kristen Langermann in the middle of the box who, from 12 yards away, sent a low liner that skipped under the foot of a CCC defender and into goal to give Lake Highland a 1-0 victory and a spot in the Class 3A final.
"I actually had my back to the goal during the play because I was thinking about what we were going to do for overtime," CCC coach Tom Typrowicz said. "It came down to kicking a ball in the air and that ball playing games in the wind."
After the goal, CCC players looked up at the stadium clock that read 12 seconds then looked to the ground in disbelief.
"We've gone to overtime our last two games so I think we were kind of preparing for it," said Kenner (three saves), who faced just four shots on goal. "We weren't ready for that last play."
CCC (15-6-3) will undoubtedly enter the offseason wondering what could have been had it held on a few more seconds. Particularly maddening is the fact Lake Highland (19-4-7) hadn't so much as sniffed the goal all afternoon. The Highlanders' best opportunity before their winning score came in the 66th minute when Jordan Nolette cracked a wind-aided shot from 20 yards that connected with the framework and bounced away.
CCC had just four shots on goal, with its best scoring opportunity in the 53rd minute when Lindsey Cooper dribbled around two defenders and crossed to Ronnica Harris, who came up just inches short of heading it into goal.
"What are you going to do," Typrowicz said with a smile. "You give it everything you can. You learn from it, develop more perseverance. I think over 37 years of (athletic) coaching, you learn to put it in perspective."
State girls soccer
All games at Lockhart Stadium, Fort Lauderdale
Nease 2, Cypress Lake 1
Merritt Island 2, Gulf Breeze 0
Lake Highland Prep 1, CCC 0
Bolles 5, Gulliver Prep 4
Final, 7 p.m.
Final, 5 p.m.
St. Johns Country Day vs. American Heritage, noon
Tampa Prep vs. Orangewood Christian, 2 p.m.
On the Web
Can't make the games? Staff writer Bryan Burns will blog all the action involving bay area teams. Check out blogs.tampabay.com/preps/