SEBRING - One squad was banged up while the other one was missing nearly all of its starters from last year.
But that didn't keep Sebring and Lake Placid from putting on a thrilling soccer match in the girls season opener Tuesday night at Firemen's Field, as the Blue Streaks pulled away late for a 2-1 nondistrict win over the Green Dragons.
"It was classic Sebring-Lake Placid," said Streaks coach Richie Birdsall. "But I'm extremely pleased with what I saw tonight. We're missing eight starters from last year, and I played a lot of freshman tonight, many of whom had never seen a high school game."
"Our girls stepped up."
The Dragons soared out of the gate to start the match, scoring in the first minute to take an early 1-0 lead. Driving the ball deep into Sebring territory, Lake Placid's Stephanie Bennett set up a cross to Sonia Becera, who booted it in for the goal.
Paced by Jenna Blount, who drove kick after kick at Streaks goalie Shannon Bloemsma, the Dragons controlled the ball for much of the first half.
But despite dominating the shots on goal, Gang Green never found the back of the net after their early score.
Undeterred, Sebring finally broke through in the 42nd minute, as Haylee Peters marched the Streaks down field and slipped a shot past Tamija Douglas.
The match was tied at one heading into halftime, and neither coach liked what he was seeing.
"If you listen, coach Birdsall and I yelled to our girls that it was becoming a kickball game," said Lake Placid coach John Merlo. "I don't think either side used any combinations; even our junior-varsity game looked more organized - and I told the girls that. But that's stuff you can fix."
The tables turned in the second half, as Sebring took control of the ball, pounding Douglas with an array of headers and corner kicks. But even with the flurry of shots, Douglas managed to snuff out every scoring opportunity, sacrificing her body whenever necessary to preserve the tie.
Following a penalty, though, Sebring was allotted a free kick, and Peters scored her second goal on a perfect lob kick that rose just over Douglas' hands and snuck into the back of the net to put the Streaks up 2-1. Sebring held on from there as time simply ran out for Lake Placid.
"We're still looking for that other mid," Merlo said. "Mary Grace is out for volleyball, and when we have her back that will make a world of difference. Right now we're looking at a couple of mids from JV."
As far as country rivalries go, the one between Lake Placid and Sebring's girls soccer teams is as intense as it gets. But the two won't face each other again until the new year rolls around, when the Streaks travel to the Dragons turf in January.
"They'll be the first to tell you, they were missing a few girls" Birdsall said. "But if you beat Lake Placid, you worked hard. You Deserve it."