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North advances to regional final over Naples

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Feb 24, 2021

NFM goalkeeper Olivia Jernstedt gets ready to boot the ball downfield during North’s regional semifinal game.

news@breezenewspapers.com

On an evening where it seemed like the team which took advantage of the wind the most would win, it was the team going against the wind in the second half that finally broke the ice.

Freshman Sophia Kerns put one into the net in the 50th minute to provide the North Fort Myers girls soccer team the only goal it needed to down Naples 1-0 at home to advance to the Region 5A-3 finals on Feb. 23.

The Red Knights (16-2-3) were to travel to Osceola (14-5-1) on Tuesday for the regional championship. Osceola defeated Countryside 3-2 in the other regional semifinal.

It was a sweet reward for a team that couldn’t seem to catch a break as the Red Knights saw at least four shots hit the post in the contest. Coach Nick Erickson said his team deserved to win the game.

“At the end of the day, with this young team and other teams 80 times bigger than us, to come out and battle against Estero and Naples, three teams in the top 11 in the state, I can’t be prouder,” Erickson said.

North had numerous opportunities in the first half playing with the wind. Freshman Evie McCarthy hit the crossbar in the 8th minute and Kerns hit the post late in the half.

Erickson said the Red Knights would have to be willing to play on the ground in the defensive and middle thirds in the second half against the wind, because clearing long wasn’t going to happen.

“We hit the post a bunch of times. In the first half we wanted to take advantage of the wind, but the ball didn’t bounce our way,” Erickson said.

It took North a few minutes to get its bearings in the second half, but found the break it needed in the 50th minute.

Countering on a Naples attack, North’s Michelle Horan delivered a perfect pass to Kerns, who found a corner and pushed it past goalkeeper Lane Calkins for the icebreaker.

“I had a good ball played to me and I picked a corner. I saw the goalie was standing on the line and didn’t come out for the shot,” Kerns said. “We were playing feet in the second half and got them tired.”

From there, while the Golden Eagles (10-4-2) outshot North Fort Myers 14-12 and had a 4-3 edge in corner kicks, they really didn’t get many golden opportunities on goalkeeper Olivia Jernstedt as North’s defense absorbed the pressure and countered while keeping top scorer Arianna Kinsley totally at bay.

“She didn’t play in the regular season game with us, but we had an idea of how we would approach her. She’s a dominant force on the field, so you can’t give away free kicks in your own end or corners and we didn’t give many of those,” Erickson said.