It had been exactly 376 days since the Out-of-Door Academy girls soccer team had lost a game, a 2-1 defeat against Community School of Naples in the first round of the 2016 regionals.
On Tuesday, the Thunder finally met its match in the Region 1A-2 semifinals, and it took a last-minute goal to do it.
Molly Lunsford scored on a free kick with three minutes left to give Fort Myers Evangelical Christian a 1-0 victory and hand Out-of-Door its first loss of the season after 18 straight wins.
“That was a tough one, but Evangelical Christian is a real quality team,” Thunder coach Bill Unzicker said. “They are so good with those set pieces, free kicks, corner kicks, and we tried to minimize that, but we weren’t sharp technically.”
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ODA’s Natalie Gorji earned a yellow card to give ECS a free kick. From 30 yards out, center back Lunsford blasted one in the top left corner, out of reach for Chloe Spingler and into the back of the net.
Out-of-Door drove 90 minutes to get to Fort Myers, and it took another 40 minutes for their players to get their feet under them as the Sentinels (24-4) dominated the first half, outshooting the Thunder 15-2.
“They weren’t ready mentally and physically to get started and that put us a little behind,” Unzicker said. “It was still 0-0 at the half and that energized us.”
The Thunder (18-1) got it together in the second half and started to pressure Sentinels goalkeeper Bella Bennet. Meanwhile, ODA was keeping the Sentinels from getting close, forcing them to take long shots to give Spingler easy saves.
The Sentinels soon ratcheted up the pressure again and forced ODA into three yellow cards, the third of which was the charm.
“ODA had a couple players that have size and our smaller forwards couldn’t get through because they put a body on her. We laid off and tried to get something from outside and hopefully get a break,” Sentinel coach Steve Magner said.
The future looks bright for ODA, as it loses just one senior. Still, it was a tough one to swallow.
“Keeping it in perspective, it’s our first loss in a year, and a 1-0 loss against this caliber of team is nothing for these girls to feel bad about,” Unzicker said. “I’m glad they’re disappointed because when you compete you want to win, but they need to feel good about their season.”