Girls soccer | Golden goal sends Saint Stephen's to Class 1A-District 7 final

Saint Stephen's to play Sarasota Christian for 1A-7 title

jdill@bradenton.comJanuary 17, 2014 

BRADENTON -- For the third time this season, the Saint Stephen's girls soccer team earned a one-goal victory over Bradenton Christian.

However, Thursday's encounter in the Class 1A-District 7 semifinals was arguably the tightest match between the two programs this term.

The host Falcons bested the Panthers 2-1 with a golden goal from Kristi Jones with roughly two minutes remaining in the second extra-time period.

"They match up really well with us," Saint Stephen's head coach Eric Howell said. "No ball is free."

The sudden-death goal from Jones came off a set piece as Kelsey Leskinen bent an inswinging corner to BCS keeper Alex Watson.

Watson, who made several huge saves during a match that saw the Falcons pour on the attack for the first 80 minutes, could only get her fingertips to the ball.

It spilled toward the center of the box, where Jones lofted a shot over BCS defenders and Watson to find twine and end the match.

"It was down to the wire, and we had less than three minutes left before it went to PKs," Jones, a senior captain, said. "So it was really important that we had a goal. ... She takes great corners and I knew we had to get it in. So just attack, and attack."

The Falcons (12-1-0) scored the opener midway through the second half when Katie Pierce delivered a one-touch effort that rattled in off the underside of the crossbar.

Undeterred, the Panthers answered 10 minutes from time off their lone corner in regulation.

Sophomore forward Emily Malcom ran to the near post, where the ball was whipped, and nodded a header that tucked inside the far post to level the match at 1-1.

Then both teams had chances to end the match, with BCS getting a couple more in the second extra time period.

The best chance was eighth-grader Madison Allen's shot that seemed destined to seal the Falcons fate.

However, Saint Stephen's, which played the last 20 minutes down a man, cleared the ball off the line.

That set up the late theatrics from Jones.

"I think we deserved at least a penalty kick shootout, but Saint Stephen's scored the goals," BCS head coach Butch Morley said.

Saint Stephen's faces Sarasota Christian in Friday's championship match.

The Blazers squeaked past Out-of-Door Academy 1-0 in Thursday's other semifinal.

Senior Caris Miller scored in the seventh minute for SCS, and that stood up despite the Thunder (7-5-1) throwing the kitchen sink in attack during a second half onslaught.

ODA's best chance to get an equalizer was in the final minutes when a free kick was dropped by the Blazers keeper and ODA's ensuing shot was blocked and cleared into empty space.

The Thunder also had a corner that resulted in a shot that was fired wide. That was the last kick of the match, and SCS advanced to Friday's final.

"The ball just didn't bounce well for us in the couple chances that we had," ODA head coach Bill Unzicker said.

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