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Girls soccer: State-bound for the first time

A Cinderella run through regionals gives East Lake its first trip to the state semifinals.

By BRYAN BURNS
Published February 2, 2008


SEMINOLE - The same recipe East Lake concocted to defeat Palm Harbor University four days ago worked again for the Eagles in their Class 5A region final against Seminole.

Start with an early goal against the run of play, mix in a great defensive effort that allowed few realistic scoring opportunities and sprinkle in some great goalkeeping by Ali Burnham. The result: a 3-0 victory over the Warhawks - the same scoreline as the PHU game - and the Eagles' first trip to the state final four.

East Lake (17-5) will play George Jenkins, a 3-2 winner over Newsome, in the state semifinals on noon Friday at Fort Lauderdale.

Early on, it was Seminole (18-3-1) who put heavy pressure on the East Lake defense but couldn't capitalize, just missing the all-important first goal several times.

"Seems like we had about six or seven good opportunities in the first 15 minutes," Seminole coach Steve Kuplicki said. "We just couldn't get it past their goalkeeper."

Seconds after the first water break, a loose ball that caromed off an East Lake player and Seminole keeper Casey Merson fell right in the middle of the box to the feet of Leah Fisher who drilled a shot into goal with Merson off her line.

"The way we started out, that (first goal) really made a big difference for us," East Lake coach Raleigh Daves said. "We got a little bit of a cushion and could just play."

Six minutes later, Alicia Nalley sent a rocket off her right foot from just outside the 18 past a diving Merson for a 2-0 halftime advantage. With East Lake's defense not giving an inch after halftime, Danielle Ciglar sealed it for the Eagles with a left-footed strike high over Merson in the 71st minute.

"Our defense is amazing," Burnham said. "With them, I don't really have to do anything. I just sit back there and let them do what they do."

State semifinals

All games at Lockhart Stadium, Fort Lauderdale

5A: George Jenkins vs. East Lake, noon Friday

3A: Clearwater Central Catholic vs. Lake Highland Prep, noon Wednesday