3A-9 GIRLS: The Lions kept the Panthers on the defensive much of the game in a 3-0 victory.
By JOEL POILEY
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 7, 2003
TAMPA -- A new energy. Renewed commitment. Better focus.
Amazing what a new coach with a fresh approach can do. Just ask the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the King girls soccer team.
Led by the youthful exuberance of first-year coach Jamie Lutes, top-seeded King used a hat trick from Beckie Ware to breeze past second-seeded Plant 3-0 on Thursday for the title.
The Lions (11-1-2) host the District 10 runner-up in a region quarterfinal Tuesday night at 7:30. Plant (9-2-4) travels to the District 10 winner Tuesday.
The final score didn't show King's dominance. The Lions outshot Plant 9-2 and kept the ball in Plant's end most of the game.
Ware, a senior captain with a powerful left foot, said Lutes not only brought passion but also a key strategic move that benefited the team throughout the season.
"I wasn't touching the ball enough up top, so by moving me and Megan Johnson to midfield, we're able to start the offense from farther out and control the game," Ware said. "She brought a whole different attitude and atmosphere and we feed off of her."
Following a trip in the penalty area, Ware scored the only goal King needed on a penalty kick in the 34th minute. She added two goals in the second half from 18 and 20 yards on left-footers.
Plant keeper Lori Hammer kept the Panthers close with several outstanding saves. She robbed Ware of a fourth goal in the second half with a diving stop to her right on a point-blank blast.
King goalie Martha Walker wasn't threatened, buffered by a smothering defense and a well-executed passing attack that kept the ball away from the Panthers.