High School Sports

Backup power boosts Palmetto

PALMETTO - They judged the steers at the Manatee County Fair Grounds at 7 p.m. Thursday, which was not a problem unless you were Ashley Stinton, who had a steer to be judged. Stinton is also the goalkeeper for the Palmetto High girls soccer team, which was set to play visiting Lake Wales in the first round of the regional playoffs just a few hundred yards up the road at the same time.

"Ashley called me all upset when she found out (about the conflict)," Palmetto coach Art Weaver said. "She said, 'Coach, what do I do?' I told her go to the fair. That's why we have backups."

Palmetto's backup keeper is Danika Loggins, who decided to switch from forward to keeper this season because the Tigers needed a backup goalie.

"We have a lot of faith in her," said Holly Christensen, Palmetto's leading scorer.

Loggins rewarded that faith by stopping six shots, including a breakaway with four minutes to play that would have tied the score in what became a 3-1 Palmetto victory in the Class 4A-Region 3 quarterfinal.

"I'm happy we won," Loggins said. "I'm glad I got the chance to play and to help out the team. Usually I'm sitting on the sidelines cheering us on."

Palmetto (13-7) hosts Estero (17-5) on Tuesday in the region semifinal. Estero, the 4A District 9 runner-up, beat Palmetto 4-1 in the same round last season.

Stinton will be back in goal for that match, but Weaver said it's nice to know his backup can do the job in a big game.

"When Danika got to the locker room before the game she asked me if I was nervous because she was playing. I said absolutely not," Weaver said.

"I wasn't really nervous, just really excited to play the game, because I didn't play much this season," Loggins said. "But I knew my girls would come through for me."

Led by sweeper Carly Kimball and stopper Grae Turner, Palmetto's defense prevented Lake Wales (10-7-2) from generating any real scoring chances in the first half. The Highlanders' lone goal came when Brooke Gary scored off a corner kick 12 minutes into the second half to tie the score at 1.

Palmetto took a 1-0 lead when Rachel Ramirez scored in the 16th minute.

Ramirez then sent a crossing pass to Christensen, who beat a defender scored her 28th goal of the season to give Palmetto the lead with six minutes to play. Christensen would ice the match with another goal in the final two minutes, but not after Loggins preserved the one-goal lead when she came out of the net to challenge Katie McMullen, dived and took the ball almost off McMullen's foot.

"That's something you don't coach," Weaver said. "That was raw instinct. She just knew it was time to come out."

It was the chance Loggins said she was waiting for all match.

"I was coming out for that one," Loggins said. "That was my chance to be aggressive."