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North girls soccer make first trip to states

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Mar 3, 2021

news@breezenewspapers.com

When the North Fort Myers High School girls soccer team was stunned in the district finals by Cape Coral, it would have been easy to write the squad off for this season, apparently facing a tough battle on the road against some of the best teams in the state.

Well, the Red Knights didn’t panic.

After beating Estero on the road 1-0 and Naples at home by the same score, the Red Knights went to Osceola and stunned the Warriors, 2-1, to make their first ever appearance in the state Final Four.

Unfortunately, they ran into the defending 5A state champions Archbishop McCarthy, which handed North a 1-0 loss and ended the season for the most successful Red Knights team in history.

North coach Nick Erickson said the defense was the key to their success in the postseason.

“Even in the district final loss, we only gave up one run with the others being handballs. But the defense played well,” Erickson said.

In the regional finals, Osceola took the lead in the ninth minute on a goal from Taylor Cramer. North struck back quickly four minutes later when the freshman connection, Evie McCarthy to Sophia Kerns, struck to square the match.

McCarthy scored the game winner with about 14 minutes left off an assist from Michelle Horan as the defense held on.

Playing Friday against McCarthy in the state semis, the Red Knights came up against a team that was stronger and bigger, and the difference showed.

It all started, and ended with a mishap in the defensive zone, where a missed header by North ended up going to Sophia Goetz, who found Bella Rocco, who then blasted a perfect shot into the corner past Aliyah Morgan for the game’s only goal.

“They capitalized on a header that glanced our player’s head and into their general path. The girl made an excellent shot,” Erickson said.

The Mavericks pretty much had their way, winning 50-50 balls and utilizing their size until the final 20 minutes, when North modified its alignment to try to score the tying goal. And while the strategy seemed to work, it did not produce any goals.

“Whether you lose 1-0 or 4-0, it makes no difference because you’re trying to win the game. We threw more numbers forward and it generated pressure,” Erickson said. “We struggled to get clean shots on goal. We had opportunities, but couldn’t get that clean final shot.”

North ended its season 17-3-3, and with so many young players returning, another trip to states next year is certainly not out of the question.

Erickson generally started seven or eight underclassmen, including three definitive freshmen starters (with a potential fourth missing the season due to a knee injury).

Among those leaving will be Anna Carter, a four-year starter who played center-back this year, and Kinsey Dold, who transferred from Oasis.

“We feel we have a very strong roster underneath them. Hopefully we get another solid freshman class in to deepen the roster,” Erickson said. “I anticipate some high-quality kids and that’s exciting.”