Gulliver senior Nicole Harris watched as the potential game-tying shot from American Heritage Boca/Delray senior Sarah Coy hit the crossbar, quickly cleared by a defender with nine minutes remaining.
“My heart dropped, to be honest,” said Harris, who stood 30 yards away from the play.
Senior Madeleine Intriago tacked on an additional score five minutes later for the Raiders, who beat the Stallions 4-2 in the Class 2A regional final Tuesday night in Delray Beach.
Gulliver (20-0-4) won the Class 3A state championship in 2011 for the program’s first title but moved down a classification and lost to American Heritage 5-1 in the regional final last year.
On Tuesday, the Raiders quickly took a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute off junior Samantha Lujan’s tap over the goalkeeper on senior Kai-Lin Hernandez’s long throw-in.
The Stallions (22-1-1), the reigning three-time state champion, evened the score in the 12th minute when Coy dribbled to the top of the box, and her strike went just past the diving goalkeeper.
Harris’ strike from 30 yards out with her left foot found the top-left corner of the net, recapturing the lead for the Raiders in the 29th minute.
Lujan’s second goal — from 40 yards out on another assist from Hernandez — turned out to be the game-winner with 19 minutes to go when junior Hannah Coy’s rebound with 13:45 left cut the deficit to 3-2.
“I’ve been working all year for this game because after last year we were heartbroken because we really wanted to go to state after coming off a state championship.” Lujan said.
Of that team, just two girls returned. The Raiders will host either St. Petersburg Catholic or North Palm Beach Benjamin on Friday night in the state semifinal.
Christina de Nicola
• Region 4-4A final — Melbourne 4, Miami Springs 0: Miami Springs made the three-hour trip north to Melbourne for its Class 4A regional final contest against host Melbourne High School at Tom McIntyre Stadium, knowing the odds were stacked against it.
The Bulldogs, a decorated program with multiple state titles — including back-to-back in 2009 and 2010 — sporting a 22-0-1 record and stacked with eight Olympic Development players, demonstrated why they were a prohibitive favorite by dominating all night long and cruising past the Golden Hawks.
Melbourne advances to the 4A state semifinal on Friday and will host either Bradenton Lakewood Ranch or Plant City while Springs closed out its season at 17-6-4.
Perhaps hoping to get a little mojo from playing in the same stadium they won their only state title in 25 years ago to the month, it never happened for Springs as Melbourne, with superior ball-handling and blinding speed from its forwards, ran the show from the opening whistle.
“They’re [Melbourne], just a great soccer team and to make matters worse, we didn’t come out with very much energy and it showed early on,” Springs coach William Drew said. “We tried to drop some players back and keep things close in order to offset their speed, but once they got up quick on us, things just snowballed from there.”
The first goal came eight minutes into the game to give Melbourne a quick lead when Kiera McCarthy, whose apparent goal just three minutes earlier had been disallowed by an offsides call, knocked one past Springs goalkeeper Lianna Guerra. Guerra was peppered throughout the first half by numerous scoring chances for the Bulldogs before they finally made it 2-0 in the 34th minute on a Hannah DeBose goal from the right side.
Four minutes later, Abigail Hopping centered a perfect pass from the corner to a streaking Jessica Hopping, who knocked it in to make it 3-0 at halftime.
• Region 4-5A final — Lourdes 2, Cypress Bay 0: Senior Forward Bailey Plummer couldn’t stop smiling after her Bobcats defeated Broward power Cypress Bay at Columbus.
“I’m ecstatic,” Plummer said. “This team has waited four years to do this — since our freshman year, the last time we went [to the state semifinals]. Because I’m a senior, I’m so excited.”
That excitement could grow because the Bobcats are just two wins away from their first state soccer title.
Lourdes (19-2) will be the host team Friday night in a state semifinal game against Palm Beach Central, which upset nationally ranked St. Thomas Aquinas on penalty kicks after they drew 2-2.
The site of the state semifinal has yet to be determined, but it could be Columbus or Tropical Park.
Lourdes’ victory on Tuesday avenged its 2012 regional finals loss to Cypress Bay. This time, though, the Bobcats were just too fast.
Coach Kate Dwyer, whose Cypress Bay team finished its season at 17-3-3, said she was impressed by Lourdes’ speed.
“[The Bobcats] were flying at us,” she said. The Lightning certainly had no answers for Plummer, who scored on a soft-touch header in the second minute. It was Plummer’s 32nd goal of the season, and the assist went to Amanda Delgado.
Lourdes dominated possession for most of the game and nearly added to its lead. But Plummer hit the post in the first half, and Christina Hoynack smacked it off the woodwork in the second.
Finally, in the 78th minute, Plummer’s pressure paid off. She got her foot on a 50-50 ball against Cypress Bay goalie Samara Stolzenberg, who took her down.
Lourdes was awarded a free kick, and Sophia Portuondo converted with a low boot to the left corner.
Jenny Herold got her 19th shutout of the season as the Bobcats’ defense allowed very little in the way of threats.