As winter sports start to wind down, two Carrollwood teams are emerging. Both Carrollwood Day School and Gaither High School's girls soccer teams have positioned themselves for a run at regionals.
Here's a look at both teams:
Carrollwood Day School:
The Patriots capped the season 11-2 with a 5-2 Class 1A District 7 record. It was only good enough to buy them the No. 3 seed in a very tough district.
"Our district is tough, especially with Tampa Prep," said Patriots head coach Donna Holyman. "Today, we have our eye on Calvary, so until we finish that game, I'm not looking ahead. This is single elimination, so nobody can be taken lightly because everyone has nothing to lose.
"I expect a tough game today."
The Patriots did not disappoint.
The girls pressed the action all night long, finally breaking through in the second half when eighth-grader Carli Gauthier got a pass through the Calvary back line. The one-on-one with the keeper was a foregone conclusion, and CDS went up 1-0.
The goal was foreshadowed by the tenacious play of sophomore center back Alex Schweitzer and constant harassment from both Patriot wings junior Jaden Edwards and senior Halia Smalczewski.
The girls move on to the district semifinals, where they will most likely take on the No. 2 seeded Bishop MacLaughlin. All games from now on will take place at Tampa Prep. The Patriots play at 6 p.m.
The Gaither girls fell to the No. 4 seed in Class 4A District 8 after crash-landing down the stretch of the regular season. They posted a 5-8-1 record, 2-3 in the district.
They faced the No. 5 seeded Sickles squad, who they had beaten 1-0 in the regular season, in the first round of the district playoffs.
"They're a big team, we knew we we're going to get banged around a little," said Gaither Cowboys head coach Trevor Scott.
The Gryphons banged the Cowboys around in the early going, putting pressure on goal and taking several shots in the opening minutes. In the 28th minute, sophomore midfielder Jada Humpheries blasted one in from point-blank range, after a sophomore keeper Amanda High deflection.
The lead did not stand long, as the Cowboys got the Gryphons out of their own end and started to pressure them with their speed.
"We switched to two up top, but really, it was a matter of us coming out flat. That helped give them that first goal," said Scott.
Sophomore Taylor Meek evened up the score 1-1 in the 21st minute as she knocked one in off a throw-in.
Just before the half, the Cowboys would take control as junior midfielder Sam Knowles played a great shot from just outside the 18-yard box that grazed the keeper's fingertips as it dropped behind her and into the net. 2-1 Cowboys.
Gaither kept up the pressure on offense. They kept trying to sneak sophomore Katlyn McHenry past the Sickles back line, but were whistled offsides several times.
Sickles played a little more reluctant in the second half, until they finally committed forward and were caught. A nice ball played through to Meek was all she needed to send one into the back of the net from the top corner of the 18-yard box. The score: 3-1 Cowboys.
"They're a familiar team, and I feel like I've gotten faster over the season; it was easier to get behind them this time," said Meek.
Continuing her stellar play of the night, freshman defender Haley Knowles, helped close out the final two minutes.
"I feel like I'm playing much better now, that I gain strenghth from my team," said Knowles.
The Cowboys preserve the win, but have to face powerhouse Steinbrenner in the semifinals. Steinbrenner boasts a 13-3-2 record and a 4-0-1 district record. It will be no small task to get to this year's regionals.
The game is Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Freedom High School.