MIAMI -- Winter Park beat Westminster Academy 9-8 in the girls water polo state quarterfinals Friday, ending the Lions’ season for the second consecutive year.
In a rematch of last year’s state semifinals, Winter Park’s Ashley Tobin and Westminster’s Caroline Israels wound up in a scoring duel that ended with Israels scoring five goals, one more than Tobin. But Tobin’s goal from half the length of the pool as time expired in the third period proved to be the difference. It gave Winter Park a 9-7 lead.
“It’s crazy. I take those from half-court with seconds left just to see what happens,” Tobin said. “It’s always great when they go in, and that happened to help us win. It’s a great feeling.”
Westminster (21-2) pulled within a goal when Naomi Sanders scored her second of the game with 5:47 left. The Lions nearly got the equalizer soon after on a shot that caromed off the post, but that’s as close as they got.
“We were well-prepared and we were prepared to win. We should have won, and it’s disappointing we lost,” said Westminster coach Denise Israels. “But that’s the way it goes.”
Israels said too many turnovers in the final minutes cost her team the chance to win, adding that her players “got too excited and turned it over.”
Winter Park (23-3) trailed 4-2 in the second period before scoring four consecutive goals, two of them by Madeline Steel and two by Emily Lowe. Steel’s third goal with 10 seconds left in the half gave Winter Park a 7-5 lead. Tobin scored in the opening minute of the third period and then fired in the unlikely game-winner.
“She stepped up when we needed her to,” said Winter Park coach Barry Creighton. “She also had a lot of good shots that she missed, that hit the bar, or she would have had a few more. You tell the kids sometimes, ‘It’s your time. We need you to step up.’ And she really did that today.”
With the win, Winter Park advances to the state semifinals, one step closer to reaching the championship for the fourth consecutive year. Winter Park lost to Ransom Everglades in the final each of the past three years.
“it feels great. This is my fourth year moving on in the state tournament,” Tobin said. “Hopefully, we can keep going.”
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