By Zack Peterson
Laker/Lutz News Correspondent
All season, the Steinbrenner High girls soccer team strove to achieve its lofty vision reaching the Class 4A state tournament. The Warriors met their goal with a 1-0 victory against Naples Barron Collier Feb. 4.
“It was a physical battle,” Steinbrenner coach Teresa Patterson said. “But in just year two (as a program), it’s amazing.”
Despite a rough, physical match-up from Barron Collier, the Warriors (19-2-2) persevered, outshooting the Cougar’s 14-3 with the one and only goal coming in the 38th minute. Cici Gonzalez took a free kick that ricocheted off the cross bar that barely missed the net, but teammate Danielle Eule was there with the header to knock it in.
“We really wanted to attack down the sideline a lot to pull the keeper out,” Eule said. “Our goal was to keep pushing downhill and win the 50/50 balls.”
Along with the intense offensive push, the Warrior’s cracked down on defense as well. With their dual keeper approach, Steinbrenner managed to anticipate Barron Collier’s offensive scheme, and combated it effectively. It was just a matter of playing to their strengths.
“We feel really comfortable with our two great goalies Stephanie Hirsch and Courtney Keene,” Patterson said. “Steph plays great at outside balls and that’s what we expected.”
The shutout was Hirsch’s 20th of the year, and was crucial in the victory. In a second half that included furious, rough play and yellow cards, the solid defense was monumental.
When the clock finally dwindled to zero, the Warriors earned a spot in the final four.
“This is one of the biggest things for us,” Eule said. “But we knew that if we worked hard, this would happen.”
All the hard work culminates in the finals tournament that will take place at University of Tampa (UT). Up first for the Warriors is Harmony High, a team from the Orlando area.
The Warriors will look to use the 80-foot-wide field at UT to their advantage.
“We’re a really technical team and we like to pass,” Patterson said. “The wider fields will help our own play.”
And according to Patterson, it will help with the pressure too.
“I told the kids we’ve gone one step further than last year,” Patterson said. “This was the goal and now that we’re here I just told them to play free and do their best.”
Eule summed it up: “We’re going to continue practicing hard, going in strong and giving it everything we’ve got.”
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