Plant City High girls soccer coach Caleb Roberts said after Saturday's Class 4A-Region 3 semifinal against Seminole that his team has made a season of playing defense "11 players strong."
A little bit of an exaggeration, but not entirely wrong as the Raiders' defense was stifling in Plant City's 1-0 win over Seminole.
The win earned the Raiders a berth in a region final for the first time in school history, as Plant City will host Lakewood Ranch on Tuesday.
"Not a bad first year," said Roberts, in year one as the Raiders' coach.
The Raiders' back line of senior Kellee Brown, junior Kelsey Brevik, sophomore Alicia Marquez and freshman Deanna Rodriguez kept a fast Warhawks attack to the outside and limited Seminole's chances to long, unfocused shots either off line or easily handled by Raiders goalkeeper Taylor Michael.
Brevik, who spent most of the game marking Seminole's biggest threat, freshman Olivia Red (31 goals), said the plan was to match speed for speed.
"We knew she was the fastest player on their team and we had to slow her down and apply pressure," Brevik said. "We just didn't give her any chances and she had to get rid of it."
Roberts credited his defense for the win, saying it did everything right against the Warhawks' attack.
"Our back line played the smartest soccer they've played all year," Roberts said. "Seminole plays three forwards and they were under attack all game."
The Raiders got all they needed in the 54th minute as captain Christina Gutierrez drilled home a penalty kick after a shoving foul was called in the box.
Gutierrez, who hit her only other penalty kick opportunity of the season in the district final win over East Bay, was clutch again for the Raiders, who were without leading scorer Ericka Lott, who finished second in the Strawberry Queen competition Saturday night.
Gutierrez has eight goals in the past five matches, but none more important than the one against Seminole.
"This one was big," Gutierrez said. "The pressure was on, because this was either a goal and we win, or a miss and we could be done."
3A-2: Hayes helps Mitchell topple Land O' Lakes
Amanda Hayes scored her 34th goal to help lead Mitchell to a 3-0 win over Land O' Lakes in the Class 3A-Region 2 semifinals.
Leslie Fallon and Taylor Meek also netted goals for the Mustangs, who beat Land O' Lakes for the second time this season.
"It took us most of the first half to find our rhythm, but once we settled down, we did well," Mitchell coach Karl Kukec said. "When you have a player like (Hayes) who can score important goals in important games like that, it allows the rest of the team to play with more confidence and less anxiety."
Mitchell controlled the game from beginning to end — outshooting LOL 22-6 — but the Mustangs had a difficult time putting the ball in the back of the net for most of the first half.
Hayes gave Mitchell a 1-0 lead when the sophomore corralled a rebound and scored with a little less than 17 minutes left in the first half.
After taking the one-goal lead into halftime, the Mustangs clamped down on defense and the offense began to click after intermission.
Mitchell did not allow a shot on goal in the second half.
Fallon gave the Mustangs breathing room about seven minutes into the second half.
"I was just in the right spot at the right time, and the goal made us a lot more relaxed" Fallon said.
Meek capped the scoring, ending any thoughts of a Land O' Lakes comeback.
4A-2: Wiregrass Ranch eliminated by Jenkins
It just got away from Wiregrass Ranch. Simple as that.
In just the second regional appearance for the Bulls (20-3), they were downed 4-1 by Lakeland George Jenkins after leading 1-0 at halftime.
"I'm not really sure what happened there in the second half," first-year Bulls coach Eddy Costa said. "We had the same mentality as the first, but we let ourselves get into a lot of 1 vs. 1 coverage and that's where they got us."
Wiregrass got on the board in the 30th minute when University of South Florida commit A.J. Blount scored her 26th goal on a rebound misplayed by the Eagles goalkeeper.
But George Jenkins (22-2-2) responded by scoring two goals within three minutes in the second half.
Jessie Scarpa assisted on a Lauren Green goal, then scored two herself when facing 1-on-1 shots in the 53rd and 78th minutes against Bulls keeper and Navy commit Dayton Wetherby.
"It got away from us when we were more relaxed in the back and not more alert on the field," Blount said. "We let (Scarpa) get through the corner and get to Dayton, and that is what got us."
The future appears bright For Wiregrass Ranch, even with the departure of Blount, Wetherby and Saint Leo commit Berlin Waters.
Many young players, such as Taylor Muzik and Vanessa Jordan, got valuable playoff experience.
"There's a lot of positives still," Costa said. "Only one team can move on and, unfortunately, that's not us.
"We got a lot of experience that will be nothing but beneficial."
1A-2: Shorecrest tops Tampa Prep in shootout
Kai Greenlees punched a shot into the upper-right corner in a shootout for a 2-1 win over Tampa Prep in a Class 1A-Region 2 semifinal.
The match went through two overtime periods and five pairs of penalty kicks knotted at 1.
"It was so intense," Greenlees said. "I just went blank (before the shot). I had to put everything out of my mind. I chose to kick for a corner and went with it."
Tampa Prep played sparkling defense, but Shorecrest, getting loads of chances, finally scored when Skyler Ellenburg broke down the right sideline and put the ball in the left corner at 12:14.
"We wanted to attack, but we couldn't muster anything in the second half," Tampa Prep coach Cindy Schofield said.
Shorecrest's aggressive offense "was bound for them to score."