Springstead, Weeki Wachee go down in semis

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

WEEKI WACHEE – The Hernando County girls soccer season came to an early close, as the last two local squads alive went down in the Class 3A, District 7 semifinals on Wednesday night.
Still, both teams seemed more upbeat than not with the way their seasons played out considering their respective circumstances.
In the early match at Weeki Wachee, third-seeded Springstead took second-seeded Wesley Chapel to overtime before losing, 2-1. The host Lady Hornets followed with a 6-1 loss to top seed Pasco.
The Lady Eagles (9-10-1), who notched a 6-3 win over sixth-seeded Hernando (6-16-1) on Tuesday, had been dominated in two regular-season meetings with the Wildcats (15-3-2), losing 9-1 on Nov. 9 and 6-1 on Dec. 14.
“It was the best game we’ve had all year. We’ve gotten to where we needed to be and unfortunately it’s the last game, so we can’t keep it on,” first-year Springstead head coach Jimmy Struble said. “The girls played awesome. That’s a good team that beat us.
“For a little hit and miss right here and there, it could have been either way. It was a great game. I’m glad for my seniors to go out at least with a good game behind them. Unfortunately, we’re not going further with it, but I don’t have any complaints about the way we played.”
Springstead captain Kimberly Gibson, middle, takes on Wesley Chapel's Katelyn Leavines during Wednesday's semifinal. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

This one featured little offensive push from either side until late in the first half, when Kimberly Gibson scored off a pass from Ava Gomez in the 35th minute to give Springstead a 1-0 lead.
In the second half, Wesley Chapel put considerably more pressure on the Lady Eagles, outshooting them 9-1. Yet Jessica Ruelo’s goal in the 53rd minute was the only successful scoring attempt.
Springstead nearly won in the final seconds on a free kick by Erica Hiller. The ball hit the crossbar and deflected down in front of the goal line. Despite Hiller’s insistence that the ball had crossed over, the referees disagreed and regulation came to an end moments later.
Six minutes into the extra period, Katelyn Leavines put one between the pipes on a kick from roughly 15 yards out, ending the match.
“We finally got where we’re defending the way we should; marking up, checking down. If somebody got beat, the next player stepped up and marked up,” Struble said. “Our defense kept us in. (Alesha) Tinny especially, my marking back, she did a great job on (Bailey Hern). Denied her a lot of opportunities. She’s kingpin for them. She backed her down and held her at bay, and that’s what we really needed.
“It’s come a long ways. Of course, we lose five seniors, so now we have to rebuild for next year again. Hopefully we get some club players in that’ll help us out.”
Over its first five seasons of existence, Weeki Wachee had won a grand total of three matches. So, finishing this campaign at 10-11-1, having defeated Nature Coast in Tuesday’s quarterfinals, 3-1, could certainly be viewed as a success.
Weeki Wachee's Heather Kierzek, left, celebrates her goal with teammate Reilley Bain. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

“Obviously, this leaves a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth, but Pasco’s a great team. They have so much talent. In Pasco County, they have so many club teams around that they can pull from an awesome supply,” Weeki Wachee head coach Danny Fierro said. “I thought we played much better the second half. The first half we were a little disorganized.
“Considering we have six freshmen, never having won a district (tournament) game, with our history, yesterday was fantastic.”
Weeki Wachee keeper Erika Herzek grabs hold of the ball during Wednesday's match against Pasco. Photo by Cheryl Clanton

The Lady Pirates scored three times in the first 15 minutes, with goals by Ashley Navarrete, Jordyn Kadlub and Brooke Blommel. The Lady Hornets responded with a goal by Heather Kierzek in the 16th minute to make it 3-1.
Kadlub scored twice more, in the 26th minute to account for a 4-1 halftime advantage, and in the 55th minute. She was assisted on all three scores by Jenny Luna, who also assisted Blommel. Navarrete tacked on a second goal in the 73rd minute.
“In the county, we’ve got to beat Springstead. That’s the only monkey still on our back is we’ve got to beat Springstead. Both games this year, 3-2, 2-1, so it’s right there. That’s goal number one,” Fierro said. “Goal number two is to go one more round. Win this game tonight, be in the (championship) game.”
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.

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