By MIKE READLING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 8, 2003
TAMPA -- It was everything a Plant-King game was supposed to be: hard-hitting, physical and right down to the wire.
Only this time, it was Plant's turn to walk away with the victory.
The Panthers scored twice in five minutes and then sneaked in the winning goal with just over two minutes remaining to hand the Lions their first loss of the season 3-2 on Tuesday, further muddying the district race.
Plant, King and Sickles now have one loss apiece with the Lions leading the district by a half-game thanks to Panther and Gryphon ties. King plays Sickles on Friday and the Panthers end the season against the Gryphons.
Tuesday's game started out lethargic for both teams until Plant (8-2-4) opened the scoring at the 18-minute mark when Lauren Bridges lobbed a shot from the top left side of the penalty box over the outstretched arm of King keeper Martha Walker just inside the post.
The Panthers were poised to score again less than 30 seconds later but Walker made a dazzling save. It mattered little as Plant went up 2-0 at the 21-minute mark when Stephanie Swanz headed in a Rebecca Hough corner kick.
"That's what we worked on all day yesterday, corners and crosses," Plant coach Rob Nelson said. "It paid off today."
King (6-1-3) scored four minutes later when Caitlin Lewis buried a header of her own and then tied the game eight minutes into the second half when Lewis struck again, this time tapping a loose ball into an open net.
The game remained tied until two minutes remained when all those practice crosses paid off.
Petra Fraser drove into the right side of the penalty box and sent a cross rolling through the box past three defenders and a Plant forward before Alison Lamb volleyed it with the inside of her foot high past the keeper for the winning score.
"I can't blame anybody on my team for that," King coach Jamie Lutes said. "As soon as they scored their first two goals, we came alive. That's how it's been all season."