The Springstead Eagles Girls Varsity soccer team (8-2) blanked the Nature Coast Tech Sharks (7-3) by a 2-0 margin at the Shark Tank on Wednesday night. Coming into the matchup, both teams had the same record, and both teams’ most recent loss came at the hands of the Lecanto Panthers (9-2). In fact, both of the Sharks’ defeats were to the Panthers, while Springstead had fallen to the Mitchell Mustangs (7-0) early in the season. The game was poised to be a close, hard-fought match between two good teams.
In some respects, that is what happened. The score disparity did not exceed one point until the final four minutes of the contest, but it also did not feel quite as close as that score would indicate. While some phenomenal work by the goalkeeper would keep the Sharks within striking distance, the Eagles controlled the game otherwise. Springstead Head Coach Sarah Bell’s squad lived on Nature Coast’s side of the field for the entire 80 minutes of game time.
“I’m proud of the girls,” Coach Bell said. “Nature Coast is always a very tough opponent, you know. It’s a rivalry game, so the girls always get up for it. Luckily, we have a lot of friends, too, when a lot of my girls play. So, they really came through and put their head down and worked it out. So, they did a good job.”
So just how did the Eagles come out of the Shark Tank with a victory? By possessing the ball for long stretches of the game and keeping the pressure on the home team all night. For the first 12 minutes, Springstead continued to hold onto the ball and take shots on goal, but nothing made its way past Freshman Kennedy Rasmussen. Roughly a minute before the match’s first point, Springstead Junior Ava Kanaar looked to be in a prime position to score as she took a pass near the goal. However, Rasmussen had different plans. She sacrificed her body and slid into the ball as it was being kicked to block it out. Immediately thereafter, the ball was passed back to Junior Sarah Frazer for another attempt, and Rasmussen got her hands on the ball again. It seemed nothing would get past her. Only about a minute later, though, the onslaught would prove too great. Kanaar took a pass from Junior Nora William with 28 minutes remaining in the opening half and kicked the ball from the left side of the goal to the right corner just past the outstretched hands of Rasmussen.
The score would hold at 1-0 for the next 64 minutes of game time as Nature Coast held on against the Springstead barrage. Then, with four minutes left in the second half, Sophomore Lauren Anderson broke away past a pair of defenders and found herself in a 1-on-1 situation with Rasmussen. She was able to rifle it past the stalwart freshman to salt the game away late. In the opposite net, Springstead Goalkeeper Jacie Castleberry also performed admirably in holding the home team scoreless throughout the contest. Besides the performances of the girls previously mentioned, Coach Bell singled out a couple of other players who she felt had particularly positive impacts on the evening.
“Well, my girls always work really well on a team effort. Tonight, I really was impressed – Nora William – one of my defenders. She’s been really making some outside runs as a fullback. She actually had the assist on our first goal tonight from Ava Kanaar. So, pushing up from the defense and making that, giving us some more offense. That was a great play, and she’s really been coming up big in recent games… Riley Bradley she’s holding my center. She’s my rock back there, especially when my other one went down. We missed having Sydney Cubillo in the center.”
The Sharks hosted the Citrus Hurricanes (5-6-1) on Friday night, 12/16, at the Shark Tank, beating them 5-0. They start 2023 with a bout against Cypress Creek, Wesley Chapel (6-2) on Monday, Jan. 9th.
Meanwhile, Coach Bell and company will work on “making sure that [the Eagles] are connecting on all of our passes, working the ball around, and really working on our movement,” heading into the back half of their schedule. They begin 2023 away against Wesley Chapel on Jan. 4th at 8 pm. Then, on Friday, Jan 6th, they play Central at the Bears’ Den at 7 pm.