Girls soccer | Saint Stephen's Falcons fall 2-1 in extra time in Class 1A-Region 2 quarterfinal

jdill@bradenton.comJanuary 24, 2014 

BRADENTON -- It was a battle lost in the midfield, then a perfect diagonal pass to the left wing and a wicked cross to an open player.

That's the sequence that ended the Saint Stephen's girls soccer season Thursday at the Moore Athletic Complex at Turner Fields.

The Falcons (13-2) fell 2-1 to visiting Fort Myers Evangelical Christian after extra time in the Class 1A-Region 2 quarterfinal.

Sentinels senior Haley Pigott won the ball in the middle of the park, flipped a laser out wide to sophomore Kylee Rullo, who then whipped a cross to senior Jordan Gutheim, who deposited the ball into the open net on the match winner with roughly two minutes remaining in the first extra-time period.

"We attack from the outside quite a bit," ECS head coach Steve Magner said. "We came up the middle with our midfielders, but we like to pass around and use the passing lanes."

Rullo's game-winning assist on the golden goal in the sudden-death period almost didn't happen. The sophomore, who terrorized the Falcons defense with her pace down

the left wing all night, said she was unsure of the winning pass before it happened.

"I thought I let it roll too far," Rullo said. "It was a great ball from Haley, but I was afraid I let it roll too far."

Falcons head coach Eric Howell said the goal was a classic one.

"It's a counter goal and it's hard to defend," Howell said.

Howell's group was limited during regulation as the Sentinels (15-7-2) attacked at will in the final third.

Pigott received a low cross inside the box for a goal in the 20th minute to arm ECS with a 1-0 lead.

But the Falcons, who were on their back feet for most of the match, gained steam by getting an equalizer on their first real threat of the match.

Freshman Kelsey Leskinen curled a bending shot to the far post that was deflected into the net by an ECS defender in the 51st minute.

The momentum-shifting goal led to Saint Stephen's controlling the tempo toward the end of regulation.

"They never give up, and that's a testament to that team," Howell said. "They really are calm. ... They just fight back, and are calm and poised."

However, ECS regained its footing and dictated things in the extra time period leading up to the match-winning goal.

"When we were dominating most of the game as far as possession-wise goes, stringing some passes together, we had to continue to play tough," Magner said.

While ECS faces Community School of Naples in a rematch of the District 8 championship in the region semifinal following CSN's 9-1 drubbing of Sarasota Christian, the Falcons' future isn't bleak.

Saint Stephen's will depart some key seniors, but there are several underclassmen set to return next winter.

"Our starting center forward is a seventh-grader, so we have a lot of youth," Howell said. "And a lot of girls coming back."

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