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Bunton OT goal puts Clay girls one away: Lady Spartans in Final Four

Randy Lefko
Sports Editor
Posted 12/31/69

ST. JOHNS - An overtime goal from sophomore top scorer Brooke Bunton sealed the deal for the third-seed Clay High Blue Devils girls soccer team to get to a place long denied to Blue Devil soccer fans …

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Bunton OT goal puts Clay girls one away: Lady Spartans in Final Four


Posted

ST. JOHNS - An overtime goal from sophomore top scorer Brooke Bunton sealed the deal for the third-seed Clay High Blue Devils girls soccer team to get to a place long denied to Blue Devil soccer fans as Clay took out second-seed Beachside 4-3 with the dramatic finish Friday at Beachside.

"We got up on them 3-1 early, but I think we kind of got tired, but these girls are tough and gritty," said Clay coach Stephanie Waugh, in her 18th season and her first trip to a region final with her Lady Blue Devils. "Something clicked inside them in the overtime that this was not going to be the last game and Brooke took a monster shot for the win."
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In Class 2A, the St. Johns Country Day School Lady Spartans soccer team will return to the Final Four after winning 4-0 over Christ's Church Academy in the Region 1-2A final on Friday. Sophomore top scorer Sydney Schmidt, 24 goals, led the Spartans with two goals with Cece Nowicki and Camila Adame adding the other two goals.
St. Johns (15-2-5) will travel to Auburndale's Lake Myrtle Sports Park for their state semifinal match with Shorecrest Prep. (9-3-3) on Tues., Feb. 20. Shorecrest Prep was a 2-0 loser to St. Johns in 2022 in the Spartan's 11th consecutive state title finish.
In the second state semifinal, Lakeland Christian (21-3-1), who snapped the St. Johns streak of 11 straight state titles last year, will face True North Classical Academy (13-2-2). The final is scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m.
All four of the Final Four teams for Class 2A are repeat programs from last year's Final Four with St. Johns beating True North 8-0 and Lakeland Christian beat Shorecrest Prep 2-1 in the state semifinals.

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In Class 5A, Clay, 14-2-1, will travel to top-seed Tallahassee Lincoln, 15-5-1, for a Wed., Feb. 21 match to determine a Final Four ticket for one of the teams.
"We have historically gotten to the region semifinal but would wind up against teams like Ponte Vedra and Nease, so the district and region were more our level of play," said Waugh. "Our girls are just tough kids."
Lincoln advanced with a 2-0 win over Choctawhatchee (6-11-2) and a 3-0 win over Fort Walton Beach (12-10-1). Clay advanced with a 7-0 win over Orange Park (14-3-0) and a 4-3 Overtime win over Beachside (11-6-2).
In the other 5A region finals; Mariner (20-3-0) will host North Fort Myers (16-3-0) from Region 3, American Heritage (13-3-1) travels to Pembroke Pines Charter (11-3-2) in Region 4 and Horizon (14-3-1) will host Seabreeze (12-6-1) in region 2. American Heritage beat Mariner in last year's 5A final in overtime (4-2) after a 0-0 finish in regulation time. Mariner defeated Lincoln while American Heritage beat Cypress Creek in the semifinals last year.

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Against Beachside, Bunton, with 34 goals on the season, blasted a 30-35-yard shot that, according to Waugh, somehow hit the crossbar and came straight down on the goalie's back to deflect into the goal.
"We were on the sidelines kind of asking what just happened as the ball was in the net and our girls were going crazy," said Waugh. "We give Brooke the full green light to let loose when she sees a spot and she ripped that shot."
The Blue Devils will now travel to Tallahassee Lincoln for a second westward trip in barely three weeks to take on a Lincoln team that defeated Clay 4-2 for the district title.
"That was one of our worst games in the first half and I'm sure we won't play that bad again," said Waugh. "This team is energized by tonight and we want the trip to the Final Four."
In the first half, Clay clawed away to a 3-1 lead behind an early goal from senior Danica Nguyen who has punched up goals and assists from her outside forward slot lately.
"I think with defenses concentrating on Brooke and Kirra Dodson (19 goals), Danica has had her spots and taking good shots," said Waugh. "Kaygen Williamson, normally a back defender, has also gotten into the forward slot for some goals lately. All the girls keep looking for the open player and that works."
Williamson punched in one of the three goals in the first flurry after a scramble in front of the net landed on her foot with Bunton whistling in a third goal from a side position as the Blue Devils surprised the Beachside defense.
"They clogged the middle in front of their goal and we had to just keep taking shots and attacking the deflections in front," said Waugh.