By Kyle LoJacono
Every one of Gaither High’s girls soccer players was in either middle or elementary school the last time the program won a regional tournament game.
The Cowboys (11-5-2) overcame their lack of experience and a near 100-mile drive south to beat Venice High 2-1 in the Class 5A regional quarterfinals Jan. 27. Gaither last won a regional tournament game in 2005.
“I told them we need to get off to a good start,” said Gaither second-year coach Trevor Scott. “We needed to get on the scoreboard first to help take some of the pressure off. None of these girls have even been in a regional tournament game before. We scored the first two goals and didn’t let up in the second half.”
The Cowboys got the opening tally in the seventh minute when senior Lauren Moore, who will sign Feb. 2 to play with the University of Tampa, headed in a corner kick from junior Kaycee McGuire.
A McGuire pass again set up the second score, this time to sophomore Jessica Lawless.
Venice (12-4-1) had several scoring chances in the second half, including hitting the post in the opening minutes. The Sarasota squad converted to make the score 2-1 with less than 19 minutes remaining in the game, but Gaither freshman goalkeeper Amanda High closed the door from there. High finished with eight saves.
Gaither advanced to the regional tournament as the runner-up in districts. Scott said the team was very disappointed with the loss to Freedom High in the district finals, but the regional win wiped way that feeling.
“They really wanted to win districts,” Scott said. “It was at our field and they were very sad to lose. This just erased that. It was a big game and the girls fought hard all the way.”
Strangely enough, the Cowboys have a better record on the road than at home this season. Gaither has gone 7-1-1 away and 4-4-1 at home. Scott attributes that to scheduling tough teams like Bloomingdale, Plant and Newsome high schools at home this year. He expects his Cowboys to be much more comfortable when they take on Naples Gulf Coast High at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 1 at home.
“There is always less stress playing at home,” Scott said. “You don’t have to worry about getting to the game on time and you’re more familiar with your own field. It’s the luck of the draw that we get to host in the second round, but we’ll take it.”
Freedom’s season comes to an end
What was supposed to be a home regional game turned into a long night of frustration for the Freedom High girls soccer team, losing to Naples Gulf Coast High1-0 in penalty kicks Jan. 27.
The Patriots (11-2-3) learned their lights were not working about two hours before the game. The contest was moved to the University of South Florida, but the lights failed there too after regulation. The two squads took the 4A regional quarterfinals match up back north to Wharton High for the overtime, which did not begin until 10:30 p.m.
Gulf Coast came out on top by converting on four penalty kicks to Freedom’s two.
-All stats as recorded to Maxpreps.com by coaches.
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