Freedom clears Tarpon hurdle

Erin Wilson scores twice as the Patriots finally beat the Spongers.

Published February 9, 2005

TARPON SPRINGS - For Freedom, trying to get past Tarpon Springs has generally been a disaster. "Even the very first year, we were murdered and left feeling good because they didn't force the mercy rule," said Freedom coach Dave Outlaw. "We've had to take things like that home with us feeling good."

And as the Spongers, last year's 4A state champion, move up a classification to 5A next year, the Patriots didn't mind handing them a parting gift Tuesday night.

Freedom got two goals from Erin Wilson in the second half and held Tarpon's Brandi Bianco to just a penalty kick, beating host Tarpon 2-1 and advancing to the region semifinals for the first time in school history.

"I knew it would be tough to beat the same team four times in a row," said Tarpon coach John Freiemuth. "Dave runs a real good team. I don't mind losing to a good guy like him."

Tarpon controlled much of the action in the opening half, but Jacqui Peek and the Patriot defense allowed only two shots on goal. Freedom keeper Jana Belflower made five saves on 14 Tarpon shots.

Ten minutes into the second half Wilson untied the game with a volley finish on a Vanessa Rangel cross right in front of Sponger keeper Megan Nowikowski (three saves).

Nine minutes later Sarah Cardozo had a shot saved and deflected by Nowikowski but Wilson was there to clean up right at the goal-line, giving Freedom (13-6-3) a 2-0 lead midway through the second half.

"We take nine shots in that half and we can't bury one of them in the back of net," said Freiemuth. "I thought "uh-oh we're in trouble."'

With less than two minutes remaining in the game, Bianco beat Belflower on a penalty kick after a take-down in Freedom's box. Tarpon ended its season 13-3-1.

"So far we've gotten better each time," said Outlaw. "We've just got to keep working."