After 80 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtimes of Friday's Class 4A-District 9 girls soccer final, Plant City High sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Michael found herself facing East Bay for the first shot of penalty kicks -- and Michael was perfectly fine with it.
"I love PKs," Michael said. "I love the adrenaline rush."
Michael loved it even more when she dived right and blocked away the first kick.
"It's always awesome when you stop that first one because it almost makes you feel like you're definitely going to win," said Michael, who had defended pks in club matches but never in a high school game. "When I stopped the second one (two kicks later) I just knew we had it."
Michael was right. Plant City ended up winning the PK round 3-2 and sealing the game after a 1-1 tie through regulation and the overtimes. The victory marked the second consecutive district title for the Raiders, who felt a bit fortunate to get past East Bay (13-3-1) on Friday.
Yes, the Raiders outshot the Indians 10-3 during regulation, but Plant City trailed 1-0 after the 15-minute mark when Indian Allie Haeck drilled in a 25-yard shot just under the crossbar and just over the tips of Michael's fingers.
It wasn't until the 74th minute that Plant City the game when Cristina Gutierrez slipped in a shot off a breakaway up the middle. A few minutes later the game slipped into overtime tied 1-1.
"I'd say we're very evenly matched teams," Plant City coach Caleb Roberts said. "But in the first half I have to say East Bay outworked us. At halftime I told the girls they had to work harder, and in the second half they did."
East Bay did have the misfortune of losing its leading scorer, Kalynne Heyer, to a hyper-extended knee on a collision in the 15th minute. Heyer was taken to a nearby hospital for an immediate examination.
4A-9: Wiregrass gets past Steinbrenner
Wiregrass Ranch goalie Dayton Wetherby was very busy in the opening half of the Class 4A-District 8 final match against No. 2 seed Steinbrenner. The senior kept the fast-paced, early attack under control allowing just one Warriors goal and watched the top-seeded Bulls make the most of their second-half chances to top Steinbrenner 2-1 and capture the district crown.
The senior and Navy commit saw a rapid barrage of Warriors shots in the opening half allowing just a lone goal when Steinbrenner forward Jessica Taylor sent a cross into the box to a waiting Alexis Bredeau, who headed in the first goal of the match.
By the halftime whistle, the five saves on Wetherby's sheet did nothing to show the work she had put in, but more importantly the early one-sided attack that favored the Warriors didn't have her concerned.
"We knew we had to play against their high pressure system and early we couldn't get our foot on it," Wetherby said. "I knew at halftime we'd sort it all out and if I supported them, they would get things done."
She was right, both times. Wiregrass Ranch (19-2) came out in the second half and recorded just two shots on goal – both went for scores. AJ Blount sent a ball in to Bulls forward and St. Leo commit Berlin Waters, who drilled in the evener 5 minutes into the second half from the middle of the keeper's box.
Blount, a South Florida commit, got all the Bulls needed 3 minutes later taking a long run, drawing out Steinbrenner's keeper and sending a shot to the far post for the decider.
"We came out and our physical ability wasn't matching up with our mental abilities," Blount said. "I feel like in the second half we started playing our game and that's what worked."
3A-7: Land O' Lakes blanks Sunlake
Land O' Lakes has got Sunlake's number. There's no way around it.
The Gators beat their crosstown rival 2-0 for their second straight Class 3A-District 7 title.
"They played us well, they played us tough tonight," Gators coach Vicky King said. "They always play us hard and it's tough when we play (Sunlake) because a lot of the girls play club ball together, so they're playing their best friends."
After a scoreless first half, Land O' Lakes (17-4-4) struck quickly on a goal from Catherine Gray in the 45th minute, giving her nine on the season. Late in the game, Holly Nasello would add her team-high 12th goal in the 75th minute.
"They have our number dialed, I guess," said Sunlake coach Jami Finan, who has led the Seahawks to their first region appearance in program history. "It's tough, though, now, after they played so hard and for so long, to tell them to pick their heads up and that they still have another shot."
Sunlake (10-8-4) had its chances, including outshooting the Gators 5-3 in the second half, after getting just one shot in the first. Forward Sarah Sprauge had multiple chances, while goalkeeper Maya Kamat made seven saves.
"This team has played hard every game and not backed down," King said. "There used to be feared teams in the county, but this is a team that fears no other team out there right now."
3A-8: Mitchell remains unbeaten
After playing the entire first half against the wind, Mitchell coach Karl Kukec was eager to see what his team could in the second half.
Mitchell broke a halftime tie with three second-half goals en route to a 4-1 victory in the Class 3A-District 8 final.
"With the wind as strong as it was, it was just something we had to deal with," Kukec said. "Every game you start off 0-0 and both teams have confidence. Once a team scores two goals, it's hard to keep the mental strength of playing this game. For any team, it's tough to come back from two goals behind."
Mitchell (22-0-1) opened the scoring with a goal from junior Danielle Gottwik, but Hudson (11-6-2) would answer less than 15 minutes later with a score of its own from senior Brooke McKillen.
Hudson would not find the back of the net for the rest of the contest, with Mitchell's defense stifling the Cobras on every potential scoring possession. The Cobras were only able to get five shots on goal compared to the Mustangs' 18. In the second half, Mitchell was able to break the deadlock on a nifty header from Amanda Hayes in the 58th minute. A flurry of goals would ensue, with scores coming from Danielle Misener (59th minute) and Taylor Meek (64th minute).
"We have the potential to do anything," Hayes said. "We have so many talented players on the team. Not every team has players that are this talented. We have it this year and we have the ability to go all the way this year."
3A-9: Robinson shuts out Lennard
Powered by another strong first half, Robinson cruised to a Class 3A-District 9 title with an 8-0 win against Lennard at King.
The Knights got on the board quickly, with Hayden Jennewien blasting a long line drive into the upper corner of the net barely 5 minutes into the game. By halftime, Robinson's lead was 5-0, just as it had been in the semifinal round against Jefferson.
The second half, too, followed the script of the previous night with Rian Tellis scoring the eighth and final goal with 8 minutes left to play.
The Knights' other scorers were Sam Ishee, Jennewien (2), Megan Wagner (2), Claire Rothschild and Alexis Eschleman.
"It's nice that we can say we had some 8-0 games and no one got hurt, but it's also nice to know we didn't expend 1,000 percent of our energy," Robinson coach Billy Helms said.
1A-7: Tampa Prep triumphs
Tampa Prep took a two-goal lead, then relied on its stingy defense in a 3-1 victory against Indian Rocks Christian in the Class 1A-District 7 final at Calvary Christian.
Bishop Weaver gave Tampa Prep a 2-0 lead in the first half. Weaver almost added a second goal on a penalty kick with 5:59 left, but it was waved off as a teammate was ruled in the box. But the mistake was erased by Tampa Prep's defense, which didn't allow another IRC shot the rest of the game.
"We were kind of upset,' Weaver said of penalty kick that was disqualified. "The main thing for our defense is communication. We encourage the defenders.''
Haillie Lower had two assists. "She is the engine in our middle," Tampa Prep coach Cindy Schofield said.