High School Sports

Girls soccer | Saint Stephen's, Out-of-Door Academy earn trips to 1A-7 final

SARASOTA -- Long before Saint Stephen's increased its tempo and controlled Tuesday's Class 1A-District 7 semifinal, the Falcons leaned on a defender celebrating an important day to settle the play.

Senior Jenna Turner, who turned 18 on Tuesday, was a rock from her right wing position and aided the Falcons during a stagnant first half with several long balls over the top of host Sarasota Christian's defense.

Eventually, the Falcons (9-4-1) righted the ship and displayed their quick attack in ripping off a 4-0 victory against the Blazers to book a spot in Friday's championship match.

"She possessed the ball and didn't rush it," Falcons head coach Eric Howell said of Turner. "We were so rushed in that first half. Win a ball, then lose it real fast. Jenna was one of the few that would win it, calm it down and then send it."

Saint Stephen's meets Out-of-Door Academy (10-3-2), which edged Bradenton Christian 1-0 in Tuesday's other semifinal, for the title.

The Falcons squeaked past the Thunder 1-0 in one regular-season meeting, while playing to a 1-1 draw in the other match.

"They're an athletic team and can knock it around," Howell said.

On Tuesday, Saint Stephen's used its depth to tally four goals from four different players.

Baylee Barker (17th minute), Caroline Gregory (28th minute), Catherine Pierce (50th minute) and Paige Lindsay (51st minute) accounted for the Falcons' scoring output.

Getting four different scorers wasn't a new phenomenon for Saint Stephen's.

"We've had a lot of different goal scorers and a lot of girls step up," Howell said.

Howell said his team must continue improving its up-tempo style for Friday's district final. That match is slated for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Sarasota Christian.

ODA had its hands full with BCS.

A defensive lapse in the back paved the way for Natalie Gorji to find the match-winning goal for the Thunder (10-3-2). It was Gorji's 14th goal in seven matches.

"Nerve-wracking," ODA head coach Bill Unzicker said. "We were here last year, and we slipped one by. So this year for our seniors, they just stepped it up. We had a number of injuries, but their perseverance (and) it was very well-deserved. They fought really hard. And BCS just hung in there and hung in there. Gave me a lot of gray hairs, that's for sure."

There could easily have been more goals. Both teams played the final minutes in a tense, back-and-forth battle.

ODA glanced a shot off the post and had another one just miss wide.

Meanwhile, the Panthers also had a shot pound off the post, but couldn't smash home the rebound before ODA's keeper safely gobbled it up.

"Everything worked accordingly, but it just hit the post," BCS head coach Butch Morley said. "The goalkeeper was very fortunate to be able to just get the rebound."

A key point in Morley's eyes was the second-half penalty save from Shelby Curtsinger, who finished with 10 saves.

But the Panthers (11-4-2) never found the equalizer, despite the penalty save that shifted momentum their way.

"I thought that was going to be the turn, and it never happened," said Morley, whose team loses four seniors.

Morley said this was the strongest his team has been in awhile in the 10-year history of the program, which included the program's first-ever defeat of perennial power Saint Stephen's.