A long, scoreless night of soccer ended quickly in victory for the Estero girls soccer team, thanks to freshman striker Claudia Lopez.
Lopez scored on a goal on Naples three minutes into overtime, giving the Wildcats a 1-0 victory in the title game of the District 3A-14 tournament at Naples High School Friday night.
The Wildcats (18-1-3) will play host to Ida Baker in the 3A region quarterfinals Thursday night. The Golden Eagles, as the 3A-14 undercard, will play on the road against the Red Knights.
According to Estero coach Greg Bueno, the triumph Friday was a long time in the making.
“The seniors have done their best and worked for four years for this,” Bueno said. “This was a big, back-and-forth game that could’ve gone either way several times. We had a total team effort in that all 22 players went all out.”
Scoring the game-winning goal in the most important game of her life up until now was ecstatic for Lopez.
“When the teammates mobbed me after it was over, I was shaking and trembling. It was a feeling of total love for me,” Lopez said. “It was the best soccer moment of my life.”
Bueno also noted the play of Wildcat goalkeeper Sarah Smith.
“Sarah is part of a platoon system with two other goalies,” Bueno said. “Sarah has stepped into the starting role very well in the last two weeks. She has grown into playing every game and keeps improving.”
Naples coach Frank Frostino was notably stunned at the end of the game but remained positive in getting another game.
“We are fortunate to be playing again on Thursday,” Frostino said. “It gives us time to regroup and refocus, ya’ know? (Goalkeeper) Francesca Fischer did a bang-up job all night long as did defender France Moise. We had a lot of opportunities, and when a game is as close as this, you wind up regretting the missed opportunities. It only takes one opportunity to make the difference.”