By Kyle LoJacono
The Wiregrass Ranch girls soccer team came up one game short of the final four, dropping the Class 4A regional finals 4-0 to Harmony High Feb. 4.
The Longhorns (18-1) scored all of their goals off set pieces, including cashing in the first three corner kicks of the contest.
“We did well in open play, but the set pieces just killed us and not being able to put it in the back of the net ourselves wasn’t helpful either” said Wiregrass Ranch first-year coach Erin Dodd.
All season, the Bulls (23-3-2) had been able to set up their speedy forwards with on target passes from midfielders, but Wiregrass Ranch seemed to be just a half step off all evening.
“That’s really what it seemed like,” Dodd said. “I don’t feel like we played our best soccer. I felt like Harmony played with a little more intensity then we did, and we just couldn’t get it done.”
Dodd also said Harmony was the first team that was able to match their speed, shutting the Bulls out for only the second time this season. The Longhorns held A.J. Blount and Berlin Waters, who had 61 goals combined this year, to just three shots total.
“Their team was fast, and maybe just one step faster,” Dodd said.
The Longhorns got on the board in the 10th minute when Kaley Ward sent a corner kick from the left side that was headed in by Payton Leffew. Less than five minutes later, Ward set up Caitlin Beam on a nearly identical play.
Ward added the third tally herself off a corner kick in the second half that bounced off Bulls goalkeeper Dayton Wetherby and the crossbar before going in. Kendall Pollock added the final goal off a free kick from 40 yards out.
In the regional semifinals three nights before, Wiregrass Ranch defeated district revival River Ridge High 2-1. Blount scored both goals in the contest.
Despite coming up short in the regional finals, the Bulls had their first 20-win season, won their first game in a district tournament en route to the Class 4A-District 8 championship and won two games in regionals.
“Everything has just been happening so fast and I don’t think any of us have had an opportunity to sit down and realize what we’ve accomplished,” Dodd said. “They’re upset now, but once they have some time off and they look back on the season, they’ll realize they need to hold their heads high and be proud because it was a great season.”
As a sendoff, Dodd subbed in all six of her seniors to close the game. She said she wanted to make sure they all got a chance to end their playing time on the field.