TAMPA – Newsome girls soccer coach Kelly Townsend wasn’t expecting a big drop-off in the expectations for the Wolves this season, even with the team having lost nine starters from a season ago.
After a tight first half against Alonso, the young Wolves team made big statement as they earned a 4-1 victory to open the Lady Wildcat Invitational at Wharton High on Monday night.
With the game tied 1-1 at halftime, Newsome taking the lead through Taylor Decaire, Alonso tying it through Jenna Murphy, the Wolves came out appearing a little more settled to start the second half. Liz Haumschild and Shea Rhoney each had opportunities to give the Wolves the lead, but they finally broke through in the 57th minute.
Karina Gutsche started the move, bringing the ball in from the right towards the center circle, and she sent a long, angled ball towards Rhoney, who was making a run down the left touchline. Rhoney controlled, beat her defender, drove into the penalty area and fired a low cross into the six-yard box that was tucked away by Haumschild.
The Wolves gave themselves a two-goal cushion eight minutes later after Haumschild had a shot turned around the right post. From the ensuing corner, Caroline Evers found Gutsche at the near post for a header, and a 3-1 lead. Gutsche then turned provider in the 71st minute, slipping a pass through to Scarlett Fox, who shot home from inside the penalty area.
Townsend said she was pleased with the way the team adjusted at halftime, and was able to overcome the nerves that come with the opening game of the season.
“When you start a freshman like this at a school like Newsome, I mean, they’re scared to death, so it takes them a half,” Townsend said. “Our first game here last year was against Sickles, and we tied them 1-1, and I had all veterans playing except one, so I think the first game, no matter what, they’re going to be nervous. They want to do well, we have a huge reputation to uphold, and no-one wants to be responsible for letting that go.”
The Wolves will face Clearwater Central Catholic in a semifinal Tuesday night after the Marauders rallied to defeat host Wharton 4-3 in the second game of the night.
The game came to life with three goals in five minutes late in the first half. CCC took the lead in the 28th minute, Alexandra Alberdi scoring after the Wharton defense was only able to half-clear a cross, but the Wildcats hit back a minute later as Shelby Million picked up Emily Belanger’s cross-field ball on the right, cut inside and curled a shot into the left corner of the net.
Million then gave Wharton the lead in the 33rd minute, scoring in a similar fashion after a quick give-and-go with Baylee Dozark.
CCC responded well in the second half, peppering the Wharton goal with shots as Lindsay Cooper had a strong game in midfield. Cooper set up the equalizer, sliding a pass through to Jolie Anniclianco for a first-time finish in the 57th minute before Cooper gave the Marauders the lead six minutes later as her shot from the left eluded Wharton’s goalkeeper and slipped over the goal line.
Kaitlin Parker then added the fourth in the 70th minute, firing a curling shot from 25 yards into the top-right corner of the goal to make it 4-2. That goal proved necessary three minutes from the end, as a misplayed through-ball behind the CCC defense gave Belanger an empty net to shoot into to cut the lead to a single goal, but the Wildcats were unable to find another to tie the game.
The Wolves and Marauders will play at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Preceding them will be the tournament's other two quarterfinals, with Seminole facing Durant at 5 p.m. and Plant facing Freedom at 6:30 p.m.