By Kyle LoJacono
The Gaither High girls soccer team reached a regional final for just the second time in the school’s 26-year history, but could not get past Seminole High.
The Cowboys (12-6-2) dropped the road matchup in the Class 5A regional finals 3-0 Feb. 4. The Warhawks (22-2-1) got on the board in the 20th minute and added the two insurance goals in the second half.
In the semifinals, Gaither got past Naples Gulf Coast 1-0 on a penalty kick in the final minute of the second overtime. Junior Kelly Cuppett took the shot and found a hole just off the fingertips of the Shark’s goalkeeper to give the Cowboys the sudden-death victory.
“I was just so happy that I could do that for the seniors,” Cuppett said. “They’ve meant a lot to me this year and we’re really close. I was just really glad that I could be the one to keep it going.”
Gaither had several chances in the second half to get on the scoreboard, including hitting the crossbar and the left post. Cowboys second-year coach Trevor Scott said he was proud the team shook off those near misses and kept fighting.
“You have to play with heart to keep going and, luck of the draw, we got a PK and got it,” Scott said. “The team has worked so hard to this point. They practice hard and we were already ready to take PKs again if we needed. They all want to keep going. No one is thinking I’ve had enough.”
Freshman goalkeeper Amanda High kept the Sharks (14-4-3) off the scoreboard, recording 10 saves on the night.
“I was just hoping for no PKs,” High said. “I didn’t want it to get to that point.”
Despite coming up one game shy of the final four, Gaither reached the regional finals for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
The Cowboys have only four seniors on their roster. Among those graduating are Lauren Moore and Caity Chandler, who were first and third on the squad with 13 and 10 goals respectively. Gaither is likely to return second-leading scorer Taylor Meek, who had 12 scores, and Kaycee McGuire who had a team-high 10 assists.
“It’s been an amazing season,” Scott said after the semifinals win. “We feel like we’ve got things turned around here and we want to make this a more regular thing. I’m hoping we don’t take five or six years to get back to regionals.”