When Jada Preston was fouled eight meters from the net with 2:26 remaining in overtime of Friday night’s Region 4 final, St. Thomas Aquinas coach Sammy MacCurdy said she turned to the team’s athletic trainer and gave her a high-five.
“That girl, she steps up when she absolutely needs to and there was no hesitation in my mind she was going to score an eight-meter shot,” MacCurdy said. “She’s one of the fastest shots on the team.”
A second later, Preston, a junior, proved her 24-year-old head coach right.
Her overhand shot zoomed past freshman goalie Chloe Provenzano and into the corner of the net, sending Aquinas (17-1) into a frenzy and into next week’s state final four in Jupiter for the first time in team history with a heart-pounding 10-9 victory over Delray American Heritage.
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The Stallions (19-1) were ranked 20th nationally by InsideLacrosse.com and handed Aquinas its only loss of the season here, 19-6, back on Feb. 14. But MacGurdy’s team was much better this time around, limiting Caitlyn Wurzburger, who had more than 200 points this season, to only two goals and an assist.
The Raiders, ranked 24th by the same publication, will next face Naples Barron Collier (17-1) at either in a state semifinal next Friday at Jupiter High.
“I just think the loss really powered us,” said sophomore Carly Steinlauf, who led Aquinas with six goals. “We knew we could beat them and we knew what we had to do. Without the loss, we would not be the same team.”
The Stallions led 6-3 with 22 minute and five seconds to play in the second half after Megan Mangines scored the second of her three goals. But the Raiders responded with four straight goals and took a 7-6 lead on Steinlauf’s unassisted shot with 6:26 remaining.
The Raiders eventually went up 9-7 with 2:33 to play when Steinlauf scored her sixth goal. But the Stallions tied it at 9 on Allegra Catalano’s third goal of the match with 1:42 remaining and forced overtime.
AQUINAS BOYS CRUISE
Aquinas’ boys, the defending state champions in lacrosse, cruised past Gulliver Prep 15-5 to clinch its fourth consecutive trip to the state final four.
Seniors Jimmy Harrington (7 goals) and Kevin Crowley (4 goals, 4 assists) helped the Raiders (20-1) turn a 4-2 lead late in the second quarter into a sizable 8-2 lead at the half. Each scored a pair of goals over the final 3 minutes and 21 seconds of the second period.
Gulliver (14-7) was led by seniors Alex Balli (2 goals) and Francisco Tonarely (2 goals).
Aquinas, ranked No. 1 in the South Region by U.S. Lacrosse magazine, will face Palm Beach Gardens Benjamin (16-3) in state semis in Jupiter next Friday.
MIAMI SPRINGS TO HONOR ALUMNI
Miami Springs High School will hold its third annual High School Athletic Hall of Fame Awards Banquet on April 29 at 11 a.m.
This year’s event will be a luncheon and will be held in the Port of Miami on the Norwegian Cruise Lines ship Escape with embarking on the ship to begin at 10:30 a.m. and debarking at 2:30 p.m.
A total of seven former Golden Hawks athletes will be inducted headlined by NFL football great Lomas Brown. Brown was a consensus All-American at the University of Florida in the early 1980s before moving on to a decorated 17-year career in the NFL that included seven trips to the Pro Bowl and two Super Bowl appearances, one with the New York Giants in 2000 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII where he closed out his career as a Super Bowl champion.
Also being inducted are Frank Del Rio, Ira Fluitt, Sherryl Moore, Boomer Bray, Nelson Perera and Leslie Del Rio.
Tickets for the event will be $75 per person and can be purchased at EventBrite.com. For more information or to make reservations, contact MSSH athletic director Craig Jay at 305-885-3585, ext. 2274.