EAGLES 2 WOLVES 0
By Eric Horchy | Suncoast NewsEAST LAKE - The rubber match is set.
Published: January 23, 2013
Published: January 23, 2013
After splitting their first two meetings, East Lake and Palm Harbor University will square off for winner-take-all Class 5A region semifinal this Saturday at East Lake.
District 5A-8 champion East Lake (21-4-0) helped set up the rivalry match by convincingly beating a game Newsome squad on Wednesday night, 2-0.
The Eagles afforded themselves the luxury of playing from ahead for nearly all 80 minutes when Megan Kelly placed a perfectly struck ball inside the upper left corner from about 18 yards out. Only 1 minute and 15 seconds had run off the clock at the time of the goal.
"It was huge for us," Kelly said of the quick strike. "We had a lot of momentum and it just added to it all."
"It was going in," said East Lake Sergei Stopek of viewing Kelly’s shot from his sideline vantage point. "She just saw it and put a really nice foot on it. I think that really settled us in."
The goal was initiated from midfield with a pass sent down the middle to Madison Del Duca, who then went left to Kristy Legoas inside the penalty box. Legoas raced to keep the ball inbounds along the goal line, pivoted and went straight to Kelly for the finish.
"Kristy saved it and I was wide open at the top of the box and I just one-timed it with my left foot," Kelly said.
"MK’s actually one of the most supportive players we’ve got," said Legoas. "I always look for her at center-mid first before shooting."
The teams played the rest of the first half to a scoreless draw, but similar to last Friday’s district title win over PHU, East Lake controlled the action throughout. The Eagles outshot Newsome 6-1 through 40 minutes and 12-5 overall.
Despite the possession advantage, the Eagles did not further separate themselves from the Wolves on the scoreboard until about 13 minutes into the second half.
Newsome (14-4-3) entered the night as one of Hillsborough County’s top girls soccer programs over the past decade and was looking to avenge last year’s 2-1 first-round loss to East Lake. Wednesday night was the Wolves’ 10th consecutive postseason trip and last year represented the first time they hadn’t advanced to at least the region finals over that span.
"They really fight out there and give everything they can," Stopek said of Newsome. "So our girls needed to come out, be prepared for that and be able to rise above it. I think they showed a lot of strength and a lot of character to be able to come out and play the way they did."
Providing East Lake its second-half cushion was Legoas finding her way into the box score once again, this time by netting a goal herself. The senior created space near the right sideline and, like Kelly, placed her shot exactly where the keeper couldn’t reach it.
"At the half we talked about how the keeper’s off her line, so anywhere inside this second 18, take a chance," Stopek said of the roughly 25-yard goal. "You could see her try and maneuver the ball to get it on her foot and just take one. Once she hit it, it dropped perfectly in the back of the net. That was just her awareness of knowing where she was."
"I just knew to chip it because that was kind of the game plan," Legoas said. "It’s hard for any keeper to get up there."
Newsome found its best scoring opportunity of the second half just prior to the water break. Lindsey Eaton slipped behind East Lake’s back row and put a sliding shot on goal, but keeper Ashleigh Linse was in position to successfully make one of her three saves on the night.
Other than that moment and a brief stretch during the final six minutes of the first half, though, East Lake largely kept Newsome’s attack at bay.
"I think what’s really sticking out is that we’ve really had a mindset to play team defense," Stopek said of the key element driving East Lake’s success. "We are really, really stepping up to the plate in that area. Yeah, we’re getting some goals, but defensively we’re keeping our shape, we’re extremely organized and we’re disciplined.
"We take a lot of pride in that and I think that’s what’s really standing out. We’re here for the long haul and I'm extremely impressed with these girls."
East Lake will now welcome PHU to its home turf Saturday at 7 p.m. for what is also a rematch of last year’s region semifinal won by the Eagles, 2-1. The Hurricanes advanced in thrilling fashion Wednesday night, coming back with two late goals at Plant High to secure a 2-1 victory.
This will be the fifth time in seven years the two teams meet during the region semifinals or region finals, playing to a 2-2 split in those previous matches. East Lake and PHU were unable to go head to head twice during that seven-year period because they were in different state classifications from 2009-2011.
Newsome - 0 - 0 --- 0
East Lake - 1 - 1 --- 2