North girls edge Mariner in soccer regional semifinals
February 12, 2018


The North Fort Myers Red Knights are in their third consecutive regional girls soccer final.

Emilee Hauser's goal with 30:52 to play Friday night was enough to lift North to a 1-0 victory at Mariner in the Region 3A-4 semfinals.

North will play at home on Tuesday for a shot at the state Final Four.

The match will be against Plantation American Heritage, which upended Pembroke Pines Charter on Friday.

Like North Fort Myers, American Heritage got revenge against the team that had beaten it in their district championship match.

"We're in our third straight regional final," Red Knights coach Nick Erickson said. "That's pretty impressive. Pretty impressive."

In a war of a game that left players exhausted, bruised and limping by the final whistle, North Fort Myers' Hauser established herself as a star player in Southwest Florida.

Beyond her goal, anywhere that Hauser played on the field Friday night, she dominated.

Erickson was effusive in his praise for his sophomore captain.

"Player of the year in the county," Erickson said. "I know she won't win it because she doesn't have 40 goals, or whatever it might be. Emilee Hauser is the most physically dominant player in Lee County, Collier County, Charlotte County. She's flat-out phenomenal."

Mariner had won the first two meetings between the teams, including a 2-1 win in overtime at North for the District 3A-13 title.

"We lost the first two games against them. So there's a measure of 'we respect them,' but at the same time we think we're as good as they are. You've got to go out there and do it. They did it on our home field and we did it on their home field."

This time the Red Knights won by being the team that, more often than not, got to the ball first.

"That's what we've been preaching," Erickson said. "We get in trouble when we don't step to the ball first, are reactive instead of proactive. That's what we stressed against Barron Collier (a 5-1 win in the first round of the playoffs) and we did a good job at Barron Collier. We were first to everything. We got ourselves into some trouble when we were hurt, people falling down, players not being here tonight. It was just an unbelievable team effort."

Another North player who came up big with a difficult task was defender Macey Earnhardt. Given the assignment of shadowing Mariner star forward Taylor Yount, Earnhardt played a major role in keeping Yount in check and off the scoreboard.

"Unbelievable," Erickson said of Earnhardt's effort.

One of the players who wasn't on the field for North Fort Myers on Friday was defensive captain Makenzi Walden, who was injured in the district final. She sat out the first-round game against Barron Collier as well.

Erickson admitted he was tempted to give Walden a try late in the match on Friday, especially when Abby Snyder's knee brace broke and she had to come out.

"I gave it a thought," Erickson said. "At that point in time I didn't think it was fair to Makenzi to do that to her, having sat for that 60 minutes. God forbid something happens and she's mentally messed up with it.

"We'll see (about Tuesday's regional final). I would love to have her for even half a game. Her leadership qualities are second to none."

Mariner goalie Acelya Aydogmus, in her final match for the Tritons, was spectacular. While giving up Hauser's goal, Aydogmus faced a barrage of shots on Friday, especially in the second half, but gave her side a chance with a strong performance in net.

Friday's match got physical not dirty, just hard-hitting in the final minutes, with the Tampa Bay-area officials assigned by the FHSAA turning a blind eye to hard contacts by both sides.

The Tritons finished the season 18-2-5 with a district championship in coach Jami Hagy's first season.

Hagy, as drained as her players after the emotional and physical match, could only say, "I've got nothing."

Her players had just given everything they had on the field. It just wasn't quite enough.

Girls soccer?2A region semifinal

Bishop Verot 4, Sarasota Cardinal Mooney 0: Nicole Gulati scored three goals and her sister Nina Gulati had the other for Bishop Verot, and Lander Peck contributed two assists. Coach Randy Zavada was thrilled with the performance of his defense, saying, "The defense held them to six shots, and only one even had a chance of going in." The Vikings (20-3) will take on Tampa Academy of the Holy Names at home on Tuesday for a berth in the Class 2A girls soccer final four.

Girls basketball?5A district final

Gateway Charter 37, Bishop Verot 34: It was a historic night for the Gateway Griffins (25-2) as it won the school's first district championship in any girls sport. The Vikings (20-7) led by eight points in the third quarter before the Griffins rallied. The two teams advance to the state playoffs next Thursday, but won't learn their opponents until Saturday night. Brooke DeBartolo Collegiate and Tampa Catholic play Saturday for the District 5A-9 title. Bishop Verot travels to meet the winner of that game, while the loser comes to Fort Myers to face Gateway Charter.?

Boys basketball?Mariner 82, North Fort Myers 56: The teams completed their regular season schedules, with Mariner finishing 18-7. North hung tough into the third quarter, tying the game at 42-all, before the Tritons exploded down the stretch. Jahmel Myers led Mariner with 26 points, and Dakota Deverteuil scored 14. ?

LaBelle 74, Ida Baker 71: The Cowboys (17-8) had to hang on for dear life as the Bulldogs made up 28 points of a 29-point deficit. ?


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