Mariner girls earn 4A-8 District soccer title
Tritons’ 3-1 win avenges last year's tournament loss to Lemon Bay squad
The Mariner girls soccer team claimed the 4A-8 District title Monday night in an exhilarating contest, defeating Lemon Bay 3-1 in extra time.
The No. 1 seeded Tritons (14-4-3) scored with just two minutes left in regulation and twice in the first 10 minutes of extra time to expel their demons from last season and avenge their loss in the same game a calendar year ago against the Manta Rays (12-7).
“It feels great,” said Mariner head coach Jami Hagy of earning the district crown. “Last year we got stopped a little short (by Lemon Bay). This is a great team. They always play hard and we knew it was going to be a battle and it was.”
The Tritons controlled the majority of the match but were unsuccessful in finding the back of the net.
It wasn’t until minute 63 that the scoreless tie was broken when the Manta Rays put together a counter attack.
A hard centering pass in front of the Mariner goal found the foot of Lemon Bay’s Jacoby Maldonado, who flicked it in the opposite direction of the keeper to put the No. 2 seed visitors on top.
While the momentum shift was prominent, the Tritons wouldn’t stop attacking and it paid off just in time.
After numerous near-goal opportunities on corner kicks fell by the wayside for Mariner, minute 78 brought a different result.
A corner ball from freshman standout Ryleigh Acosta was pushed to the front of the net by the boot of Kira Wilson, knocked around by Manta Ray defenders and then to the outstretched right leg of Brooke Yount. Yount settled the ball in close proximity and in came freshman Arianna McIntyre to strike it past the keeper.
“I knew we weren’t going to give up and it was really great too see our young players stepping up,” Hagy said.
Some controversy came into play before the end of regulation, as an unheard final whistle resulted in a continuing attack by Lemon Bay, who scored and erupted in celebration. Quickly the head referee waved off the goal and on to extra time they went.
Mariner would waste little time continuing the offensive attack with the title on the line. Sophomore Gloria Quintanilla fought hard for a pass that found Acosta with her back to the goal at the top of the penalty arc.
With a defender on her back, Acosta rolled the ball behind her, spun, found some open space and wound up her right foot and struck the go ahead goal into the back of the net.
“She’s young, she’s a freshman, and she always rises up to help carry the team as a leader,” Hagy said of Acosta. “When she’s pushing, everyone else is pushing.”
Senior captain Ariana Wilson would add some insurance before the end of the first of two 10 minute extra time periods, flicking the ball inside the post on a nice run at the net.
“I saw our offensive momentum building all game and it just wasn’t falling for us,” Hagy said. “We just said you have to find a way to get a goal, and they did. I’m so proud of all of these girls, they all work so hard.”
While the timely offensive output was needed to come out on top, the Tritons defense stepped up in a big way, squashing any momentum Lemon Bay would try to build throughout the match.
“Our defense held it down,” Hagy said. “We kept making a few changes just to keep our pace up. We have the depth this year, so we have players that can come off the bench that we can count on. They’ve all bought into it and know when the time comes, they’re going to rise to the occasion.”
The Tritons will begin state Class 4A tournament play Feb. 16 at home against Tarpon Springs (5-9).
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