LAKEWOOD RANCH - Alyshia Currey plays in pain, and she will for the rest of the season. But for the senior midfielder, the best thing about playing in pain is that whole playing part.
She watched for too long as her senior season passed. She couldn't even dress for Senior Night, and Lakewood Ranch soccer coach Guy Virgilio suspected she might never suit up for the Mustangs again.
But there she was Thursday night, in the Lakewood Ranch lineup, back in the middle of everything. In her second game back, Currey scored a goal and added an assist as host Lakewood Ranch defeated St. Petersburg Lakewood 3-0 in the Class 5A regional quarterfinals.
"I feel like I took it for granted before . . . being able to play," Currey said. "It was so hard to sit on that sideline, and now I'm back."
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The Mustangs (17-5-2) will host Tarpon Springs East Lake (17-7) on Tuesday in the Region 3 semifinals.
Virgilio thought Thursday's game was one of his team's top performances of the season. He pointed to the Mustangs' superior play at the midfield as one of the reasons the team controlled the tempo and the ball.
And Virgilio said Currey being back in the lineup makes the midfield stronger.
"She has desire. She does not want to quit," said Virgilio, whose Mustangs' other two goals came from the usual suspects, Lindsay Thompson and Melissa Miller. "The doctor told her that she's gonna be in pain, and if she's gonna play, she's gonna be in pain. She has chosen to work through the pain and play the game, and I admire her for it."
Earlier this season, Currey hyperextended the posterior lining of her left knee and has a severe bone bruise. The knee still hurts considerably, and she suspected it was going to feel worse today, but victory made the ache tolerable.
After being told by her doctor last Friday the injury wasn't going to get any worse if she played on it, Currey was back on the field later that night.
Currey, who plays club soccer in Pinellas County with three of the Spartans, spent extra time wishing those players well after the game. But she admitted it was nice to come out on the winning side again.
"It's good to beat them, but I feel bad because I like them," said Currey, who hasn't been able to practice with the Mustangs because of her injury. "We won last year on a PK and every time in club they were like, 'We should have won that game. We should have beaten your team.' I said we'd see this year. And we beat them."
Lakewood coach Darlene Lebo couldn't explain why her team could muster only two shots on net all night while the Mustangs were the aggressors.
"We didn't play our best game," Lebo said. "We were really off all night. That first goal went in, and we got behind and down (mentally)."
CLASS 5A-REGION 3
Lakewood Ranch 3,
St. Pete Lakewood 0
Manatee 1 (OT)
CLASS 4A-REGION 3
Palmetto 3, Lake Wales 1
Bartow 1, Braden River 0
SEMINOLE - As Manatee High's last lines of defense, senior sweeper Hannah Brickse and freshman goalkeeper Christina Papazian performed enough magical deeds Thursday to carry the Hurricanes to the next round of the Class 5A regional playoffs.
But in a finish that was cruel for the visitors and joyous for the hosts, the duo could only watch in agony as Seminole forward Megan Fisher's shot trickled off the goalpost and into the net with 1:30 remaining in the second sudden-death overtime period.
While the Warhawks (13-5-5) celebrated their 2-1 victory and a berth in Tuesday's regional semifinal against defending state champion Palm Harbor University, Brickse and Papazian sat glumly in the shadow of the goal, questioning why their determined effort was not enough.
"Everyone on the team played good. I would have liked to advance. . . . I felt like we outplayed them," an emotional Brickse said a few minutes later.
"I was hoping we could have gone to penalty kicks, because that would have been fun and exciting. It is hard because soccer has been pretty much my entire life since second grade. I'll be doing intramurals in college, but this is really hard."
Four minutes before Fisher's game-winner, Brickse made a spectacular goal-line clearance of a header by Fisher that could have ended the match. The sudden ending spoiled an outstanding effort by Papazian, who made seven saves and played on even terms with Warhawks goalkeeper Amanda Tucker, who is headed to the University of North Carolina.
"If there is a better keeper (than Papazian) in our area, I have not seen her," said Canes coach Kevin Cassidy. "I wouldn't trade her for (Tucker)."
"Manatee's keeper played great," said Seminole coach Steve Kuplicki. "She got her hands on the ball and didn't drop anything."
Seminole took a 1-0 lead with 23 minutes left in the second half on a goal that was credited to Taylor Mattox, whose shot deflected off Canes defender Kristin DeSaulniers into the net.
Manatee (13-8) kept pushing hard and was finally rewarded with 5:07 remaining when freshman Molly Knight accepted a feed from Alisha Keene and blasted it into the upper right-hand corner.
"It was like we had hope, and in the last 2 seconds, they take it away from us," Knight said.
"I thought we controlled play more than they did," Cassidy said. "I'd like to see some of the bounces start going our way."