LAKELAND — Some wins are simply sweeter than others, and Tuesday’s win for McKeel was sweet.
The Wildcats maintained a one-goal lead gained late in the first half for the rest of the game, beating the Tampa Holy Names 2-1 in the championship game of the Class 4A, District 10 Women’s Soccer Tournament.
Senior forward Ava King said: “At the beginning of the season we lost a lot to them so I think it’s really great. “I think we’ll see them at the regionals later in the season, so we had to keep working hard.”
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McKeel went just 2-8 against Holy Names entering the game, losing 1-0 earlier in the year. Prior to the January 2021 win, McKeel was on his six-game losing streak. This included 2016 and his 2018 regional semifinal playoff losses, as well as a 2019 regional quarterfinal loss.
McKeel coach Jacob Sweeney said: “It’s a very nice win. “We’re thrilled. We’re happy to be here.”
McKeel took the lead in the 32nd minute when King sent in a beautiful feed down and Sofia Furnari went down the right side. Furnari made the move, cutting toward the center and sending a shot from about 25 yards out to find the top corner.
“It was a great play,” Sweeney said.
The goal was payback for the consistent pressure McKeel put on the Holy Names throughout the first half. McKeel’s top goalscorer, King set up many chances. In the 19th minute, he showed a good expression from a distance of about 20 yards, and his shot turned wide.
King’s feed to Mackenzie Thornton set up a chance just after Thornton concentrated on Maria Nellison, but Holy Name was able to clear.
Furnarni and Maddi Caustic had chances to make it 3 with a header in the second half after a pass into the box from the king, and header chances in the same sequence.
Caustic play helped control the midfield in the first half as McKeel was constantly present around Bal and initiating attacks.
Holy Names opened the scoring with a stunning goal less than two minutes into the match, but Cadence Rinaldo quickly equalized a few minutes later.
“I think we were a little bit shaky when they scored the first time,” King said. “I think we had to mentally turn it on. We got back into the game with that goal when we started to play.The level kept going up.The tying goal definitely calmed us down.”
Holy Names put more pressure on in the second half, but each attack was countered by a McKeel defense led by goalkeeper Crissa Avery and defenders Amiya Lemmard, Vera Arboleda, Ella Barrett and Sofia Previte.
“We changed our tactics a little bit[in the second half],” Sweeney said. “We just played to keep what we had. We didn’t want to give anything away.”