LAKELAND — George Jenkins fell to the Tampa Catholics on January 6, sitting 3-8-2 after a dismal season marred by injuries to key players. Head coach Jake Maloney couldn’t have his best 11 players on the field at the same time.
The Eagles have proven that it’s not how they start, it’s how they finish.
Healthier — still missing a key player like Siena Ferry — George Jenkins has been 5-0-1 in his last six games, and his recent wins are the sweetest.
Georgiana Strawbridge made up the last penalty kick to give Jenkins victory in the championship match for Class 6A of the District 6 Women’s Football Tournament.
“Great,” said Strawbridge. “Honestly, it feels great. It seemed impossible at times, but it was really cool.”
George Jenkins won the shootout 4-3 after the score was tied 1-1 in regulation. In the shootout, both teams fired his first three shots. Dreadnaughts fired first, but missed his last two shots. Jenkins missed his shot in the fourth, but Strawbridge scored the game winner.
“Honestly, I was scared,” said Strawbridge. “We have been practicing his penalties all week and I just picked my spot. I believed I could do it. ”
George Jenkins was seeded 11th in the region, so he needed the district title to qualify for the playoffs. The district title did not appear on the cards early in the season.
“We’ve been dealing with injuries pretty much all season,” Maloney said. I was never able to achieve it.”
Jenkins has had games without Sabu, and injuries have forced Jenkins to face top goalkeeper Ashlyn Maslin on the field this season.
“It’s really cool to see our hard work pay off at the end of the season,” Maloney said.
Strowbridge was one of the Eagles’ staples in an injury-ridden season.
Strowbridge was a force in defensive mid, but he also scored the Eagles’ lone goal. Jenkins batted first when he scored on a header from a corner kick in the first half. She said it was the first score from a header.
Drawing 1–0, Lakeland put a lot of pressure on George Jenkins in the second half. Strawbridge’s play in defensive mid helped keep the Dreadnoughts in check.
Lakeland finally broke through. Looking good early in the half, Naomi Garner, who shot high over the crossbar, had a shot from about 30 yards out. This time the ball hit the crossbar and Sofia Olivera saved a rebound to score.
Lakeland appeared to score in extra time, but the goal was disallowed due to offside, and the team settled into a shootout.
“It was one of those games,” said Lakeland coach Lee Hughes. “I thought it was going to be a tight game. That’s how our game has been going all year.”
5A-6: Auburndale 2, Horizon 1
Senior Peyton Battilla scored in about four minutes to play to close out Auburndale’s late rally as the Bloodhounds secured the 5A-6 division title.
Drawn 1-0 at the second half water break, Auburndale kept the pressure on Horizon and forced multiple corner kicks. The Bloodhounds finally broke through when McKenna Batilla scored a corner kick to equalize.
On the winning goal, senior defender Mackenzie Sinkanit got the ball and scored a spectacular through-ball to Peyton Batilla.
Horizon threatened in the second half, creating two second-half scoring chances, but goalkeeper Emma McFord came up with two saves to preserve the win.
3A-6: Fort Meade 2, Lake Placid 0
Fort Meade clinched the 3A-6 Division title with a shutout victory over Lake Placid.
Yanilly Cortez scored in the first half to put the Miners ahead, and Audrey Slater sealed the win with a second-half cross from Evette Miranda.
The defense was led by Curly Woods, Maricela Martinez, Carla Perez and Vicky Acevedo. They limited the Dragons to just four shots handled by goaltender Angelic German Wilson.