High School Sports

Girls soccer | Seventh-grader Natalie Gorji scores three goals as ODA stuns Saint Stephen's for 1A-7 crown

SARASOTA -- The Out-of-Door Academy girls soccer team had never beaten Saint Stephen's entering Friday's Class 1A-District 7 final.

This year, though, the Thunder have something -- or, more accurately, someone -- new on their side.

Seventh-grader Natalie Gorji scored three goals to lead a second-half onslaught as ODA ripped the Falcons 4-0 at Sarasota Christian.

"I'm really happy, especially against Saint Stephen's" said Gorji, a diminutive 12-year-old. "I think we had really good connections all night."

The victory ended a five-year district title run for the Falcons (9-5-1). They had won six of the past seven district championships under head coach Eric Howell before Friday night.

"They've had a decade and a half of dominance in this conference. This was big for our program, big for our school," Thunder head coach Bill Unzicker said.

Said senior midfielder Katie Lang, "It felt great to finally beat them."

Both teams will advance to the Class 1A-Region 2 quarterfinals. ODA (11-3-2) will host Fort Myers Evangelical Christian, and Saint Stephen's will visit Community School of Naples. Both games are

at 7 p.m. Jan. 22.

The two teams traded field position during a scoreless first half.

But the Thunder, who scored one total goal in going 0-1-1 against the Falcons during the regular season, wasted little time setting the tone in the second half.

Four minutes in, senior Kimmy Comito found Gorji ahead of the Saint Stephen's defense and Gorji punched it past goalkeeper Bryce Liebel for the first goal.

Eleven minutes later, Lang put a perfect crossing pass on Gorji's leg for the second goal. Then, Gorji outran three Falcons to a loose ball and scored from close range to essentially put the game out of reach.

"Is that a seventh-grader? Gosh, she's good. ... She's fast. She's got ball skill. We'll have to find a way to man mark her a little better," Howell said.

Abby Lagasse closed out the scoring on another long pass from Lang.

ODA took advantage of an aggressive Saint Stephen's defense to get several solid scoring chances. The Thunder outshot the Falcons 13-7.

"The key point was to be first to the ball and play the possession game we're used to," Unzicker said.

Howell said the Falcons will regroup for next week's region matchup.

"That's a bad beat right there, but it just didn't feel like it," Howell said. "It felt like we're in that game, and they finished a couple transition goals. ... We gotta finish our chances. They didn't go in for us; they went in for them. That's soccer."

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