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Plant-Newsome girls soccer region final lives up to billing

And it’s the Panthers advancing to the Class 7A final four thanks to a lone goal in the 25th minute.
Plant junior Victoria Cura celebrates after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Newsome in a Class 7A region final Tuesday night. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
Plant junior Victoria Cura celebrates after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Newsome in a Class 7A region final Tuesday night. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]

TAMPA — Two giants in local girls soccer faced off Tuesday night in a huge match — Newsome at Plant — with a Class 7A state semifinal berth on the line. The giants didn’t disappoint.

From start to finish the Wolves and Panthers went at it, in every corner, down the middle and around the goal.

Only in the 25th minute — when Plant’s Quinn Ryan chipped over a defender to sophomore Kallyn McKinney, who gathered the ball at her feet, then touched it toward junior Victoria Cura, who tapped it into the back of the net — did either team score.

Yes, there were plenty of close shots and dramatic saves by the keepers, including several in the final few minutes by Plant’s Lexi Evangelista, but in the end the Panthers came out on top.

Final score: Plant 1, Newsome 0.

“It did get a little chaotic there at the end,” Evangelista said. “But I kept my cool. I needed (to stay cool) to help my team.”

In the first half, Plant (18-0-2 and the region’s No. 1 seed) appeared to be more in control, running the offense with more passing and ultimately more shots on goal.

In the second half, however, Newsome (16-3-2 and the region’s No. 2 seed) applied far more pressure on the Panthers, who had switched to a more defensive mode at the request of coach Alex Venegas.

“I told them to just get the ball out of there (near the Panthers’ goal) and concentrate on playing tough defense,” Venegas said. “I thought that gave us the best chance to win.”

He was right, but admittedly, it was nerve racking down the stretch.

“It was very stressful,” Cura said. “But we did what we had to do.”

State girls soccer semifinals

All games at 7 p.m. Friday unless noted.

7A: No. 1 Plant at No. 1 Bartram Trail

5A: No. 1 Land O’ Lakes at No. 1 Ponte Vedra

2A: No. 1 Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy at No. 1 Shorecrest

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