DOVER — Over two nights and 180 total minutes, in both November crispness and January cold, East Bay and Plant City jostled futilely for Class 4A, District 9 supremacy.
Finally, with no more minutes to tack onto a neutral-site scoreboard, the Raiders put the fate of this east Hillsborough feud into the hands of slender sophomore keeper Taylor Michael.
What active hands they were. Michael opened the penalty-kick phase of Friday night’s district title match by lunging to her right and deflecting an Ashley Privette shot. Three kicks later, she’d block a Madison Baker attempt.
Those crucial stoppages essentially sealed the Raiders’ 2-1 triumph (3-2 in PKs) and second consecutive district crown.
“She’s amazing,” Raiders junior Cristina Gutierrez, who tied the match with a 74th-minute goal, said of Michael.
“Taylor’s very good in PKs and I’m confident in our girls that we’re going to put ’em in,” Plant City coach Caleb Roberts added. “It’s something we work on in case it has to come down to it.”
It almost didn’t. With Indians top scorer Kalynne Heyer out after apparently hyperextending her left knee 15 minutes into the match, East Bay still clung to a 1-0 lead in the second half’s waning minutes.
But Gutierrez sat back on a Raiders corner kick, waited for a clean shot at the ball and sent a blast from the top of the 18-yard box into the net’s right side.
East Bay (13-3-1), which played the Raiders (9-3-3) to a scoreless tie in November, took the lead in the match’s 20th minute on Allie Haeck’s goal off a Michelle Rodriguez assist.
Rodriguez appeared to score twice in the final two minutes of the first OT, but officials determined she interfered with Michael on the first before ruling her offside on the second.
“We’re both extremely physical and fast teams,” Roberts said. “When you put us side by side, we love to play them. We like to play against a good team. We’re very evenly matched teams.”
4A-8: Bulls, wind snap Warriors’ win streak
LUTZ — Usually a non-event, the coin flip before Friday’s Class 4A, District 8 title match took on big meaning for Wiregrass Ranch. Bulls coach Eddy Costa wanted his team heading into a brisk wind to start, even though it meant an almost certain halftime deficit.
Turned out to be a heads-up move.
Wiregrass Ranch trailed 1-0 at halftime before busting out for two quick goals to start the second period, beating host Steinbrenner 2-1.
The Warriors’ 11-game winning streak was snapped.
“We just wanted to hold our own in the first half, and my girls did a great job,” Costa said. “The second half we knew we’d have way more chances. Usually we play possession but with the wind we took advantage, played more balls in the air.”
The first of those resulted in the tying goal just 3:30 into the second half. Midfielder Anne Cypriano played a harmless-looking ball from midfield and it caught some wind, making its way to standout forward A.J. Blount on the right wing. Blount looked as though she’d shoot but cut the ball back to unmarked Berlin Waters, who scored her 27th goal of the season.
“I saw her the whole way and just thought ‘get it to Berlin’ and she did the rest,” Blount said.
Blount did it herself just four minutes later, taking a through ball from Chloe Lipovetsky and outrunning the defense for 25 yards before sliding it past Warriors goalkeeper Steph Hirsch.
On the other end Wiregrass keeper Dayton Wetherby was outstanding. Less than two minutes after the Bulls went ahead Wetherby had to make an in-close save on Steinbrenner freshman Danielle Darius. The wind, and great marking from central defenders Lauren Gordon and Hannah Eder, made Wetherby’s night comparably stress-free the rest of the way.
Lauren Luzzi also did a tremendous job slowing Steinbrenner’s prolific forward Alexis Bredeau, though there was no stopping Bredeau’s strong header that put the Warriors up seven minutes before half. It was her 33rd goal of the season.
Facing a wind Wetherby described as “vicious” the Bulls had only one shot in the first half to 11 for Steinbrenner — but that shot nearly went in, as Waters hit the post early on.
Wiregrass Ranch (19-2) was the last team to have beaten the Warriors.
“Even with that, we kinda felt like we still had something to prove,” Wetherby said.
3A-9: Robinson eases past Lennard for second straight title
TAMPA — Robinson jumped out to an early lead and never let up Friday, claiming the Class 3A, District 9 title for the second straight year.
The Knights scored five goals in the first half before junior Rian Tellas put the ice on the mercy-rule 8-0 win as she cleaned up a pass from Sam Ishee that bounced off fellow sophomore Laura Osorio.
The matchup between Robinson’s precision passing and offensive flow against Lennard’s back third defense played out well for a while, but the presence of senior Megan Wagner (two goals in the first half) helped the Knights take control.
“(Wagner) knows this is her last swan song so she was motivated tonight,” Helms said.
With a heavily substituted lineup in the second half, the Knights still put the Longhorns down. Junior Claire Rothschild cleaned up a Robinson flurry inside the keeper’s box to make it 6-0, followed by freshman Mackenzie Johnson’s crossing shot to the far post. Then Tellas, working hard all night for a scoring opportunity, finally got her chance with 10 minutes to play.
With junior Maggie Santos off the back line, the Longhorns were more vulnerable, despite some gritty defensive play by junior Sandra Rico. Freshman Angie Garcia, who scored twice in Thursday’s semifinals, was kept in check the whole game, and Lennard only made two threatening forays into Robinson territory.
A-7: Tampa Prep at top of its game
Top-seeded Tampa Prep nearly recorded its second shutout of Indian Rocks Christian this season to win the Class A, District 7 tournament, coming away with a 3-1 victory.
The Terrapins have allowed just two goals in their past six games and breezed through the district tournament, outscoring two opponents a combined 7-1.
Staff writer Bob Putnam and correspondents Darek Sharp and Andy Warrener contributed to this report.