SEBRING - The Sebring Blue Streaks girls soccer team battled a talented Lake Wales squad Tuesday night at Firemen's Field, losing the Class 3A-District 11 match to the Highlanders by a score of 3-0.
At stake was a chance for Sebring to move into second place in the district standings, but the loss dropped the Streaks to 7-4 overall and 3-2 in district play. Lake Wales improved to 6-2-2 overall and 4-0-1 in district matches, which keeps them tied for first place with Auburndale.
"We just have to be a little more aggressive and want it more," said Sebring coach Richie Birdsall. "You saw the difference in the first half and the second half. The teams did not change, the mentality changed some. We can't wait to we are two goals down to decide that you want to win. We have to go in with that attitude to start."
"We have the talent to do it, they just have to want to do it."
Lake Wales controlled the ball for much of the first half. The Highlanders kept Sebring goalie Shannon Bloemsma busty, berating her with a myriad of shots. But Bloemsma held her ground, sacrificing her body and coming out near the edge of the box to keep Lake Wales from scoring.
Streaks teammates flew in to help Bloemsma when some shots were out of her reach. Lake Wales' Mariah Daly dribbled past a handful of Sebring defenders, setting up a one-on-one showdown with Bloemsma. When Bloemsma left the goal to defend, Daly shot the ball past her, and it looked as if to be an easy goal before Sebring's Marianna Becker swooped in to clear the ball.
The Streaks sterling effort on defense wasn't enough to keep Lake Wales from scoring, though, as Anna Gilbert sent a high-arcing pass to teammate Macy Skinner, who promptly booted the ball into the net with just over two minutes remaining in the first half.
Lake Wales followed its first score with a goal off of a free kick. Daly netted her second score of the night from 30 yards out when the ball sneaked past Bloemsma and ricochetted off the post before rolling into the goal. The score gave the Highlanders a commanding 2-0 halftime lead.
"For the first part of the game we were just trying to get a feel on how they were going to play," said Lake Wales coach Josh Evan. "We had possession a little bit playing with two forwards trying to get shot on frame and it just wasn't working. For us the toughest one is the first one, once we get the first one, then they start coming."
Sebring played more aggressively to start the second half. Despite controlling the ball for the first 20 minutes, the Streaks never managed a goal. Lake Wales took advantage of the scoring drought and ramped up their defense.
"The first 20 minutes in the second half we switched over to five mid fielders instead of one because we were not challenging the ball at midfield and we needed to keep more possession," Havens said. "After that we went back to the two forwards and got a little more aggressive and put the pressure back on them, because it is tough to play defensively for 40 minutes with a lot on pressure on you."
With the momentum tilting back to Lake Wales, the Highlanders scored their third and final goal with less than 12 minutes left in the match.
After a Lake Wales forward booted the ball towards Sebring's goal, the ball bounced off of a Streaks defender, where Kayla Shelton alertly knocked it in for the Highlanders to put them up 3-0.
"Their girl may have finished it," Birdsall said. "But our girl put it right there in front of the goal for her. It was a cross and our girl was in good position, it just came off of her foot and went straight to the goal. We gave them two, they earned one."
Still, Birdsall had a lot of praise for the Highlanders.
"They are a great team and what helps them is that they have great team speed. If they made a mistake, they were able to get back and make up for it."
The schedule doesn't get any easier for Sebring. The Streaks host Hardee tonight in another 3A-11 match up at Firemen's Field. The junior varsity will play at 6 p.m., followed by the varsity at 7:30 p.m.