WESLEY CHAPEL — Wiregrass Ranch proved its win over Plant in the regular season was no fluke. The No. 3 seed Bulls held on to beat the No. 2 seed Panthers 1-0 Tuesday night in the Class 5A, District 7 semifinals. Top-seeded Palm Harbor University also defeated No. 4 Steinbrenner 3-0.
The Hurricanes (13-0-1) will play the Bulls (17-4) Thursday night at 7 p.m. for the district championship. Both teams advance to next week’s region quarterfinal. PHU won their lone meeting this season, 1-0.
The eventual winning goal for the Bulls came in the 44th minute after a scoreless first half. Wiregrass Ranch had a corner kick that went into the box. The ball caromed out to Marin Yeagle, who drilled a shot from 15 yards into the back of the net.
“It was one of those things where right when it hit the back of the net I was like, ‘Yes!'" Yeagle said. “Then I had six people on top of me. It was so fun."
Yeagle missed the past two weeks with a knee injury. This was her second game back. After her goal, she helped the Bulls defense hold off Plant’s attack for the final 36 minutes. Plant (12-3-1) continued to press but could not put away the equalizer.
“We worked on defensive shape a lot and it all kind of came together today,’" Yeagle said.
Wiregrass Ranch defeated Plant 3-0 in the regular season.
In the opening game, Alivia Gonzalez, already PHU’s career goals leader, scored two goals, one in each half, to lead the Hurricanes. Brittany Kane added an assist and also played a big part on an own goal late for the game’s final score.
In the 39th minute, Gonzalez took advantage of a missed touch to score the first goal. She was able to steal a ball from the defense about 20 yards from goal. She dribbled and then launched a left-footer that sailed inside the left post for a 1-0 lead.
“The defender went to kick it out and I was following right behind her and got the deflection," Gonzalez said. “I was able to kick it in under the goalie’s arm."
PHU’s defense stifled any serious chances by the Warriors (11-7) in the second half. With 7:30 to play, Kane dribbled down the right side and crossed to Gonzalez in the 18-yard box. Gonzalez was able to get off a shot into an open net for a 2-0 lead.
Any chance of a Steinbrenner comeback vanished with three minutes to play when Kane made another cross that went off a defender and into the goal.
“I was trying to pass it to Aliva and assist her but it just happened to go in the goal," Kane said.
PHU defeated Steinbrenner 1-0 in the regular season. This was the Hurricanes' 11th shutout this season.
“We all came into this game nervous," Kane said. “I really thought it was going to be an overtime type game. But we were able to put it away in the second half."