Mariner wasn’t going to chase the game, even if at times the Region 3A-4 quarterfinal it was playing in called for it.
That’s not how the Tritons girls soccer team plays, head coach Jefferson Swift said.
“When we try to push forward and try to chase the game a little bit, that’s really when we struggle the most,” Swift said. “We’re really the most sound when we keep the passing lanes short and a little more compact.”
And so, it took until the second half against Naples at Mariner High for the Tritons to finally break out of their cold spell inside the 18.
An Aryana Saenz cross and an Amanda Miller finish in the 56th minute was all Mariner needed Thursday to claim a 1-0 win over the Eagles, setting up the team’s third date with North Fort Myers, 2-1 winners over Barron Collier in the other quarterfinal, on Tuesday in the region semifinals.
The Tritons (20-2-3) last reached the region semifinals four years ago, Swift’s first year coaching the team. After the game, he gave the team some more good news — three all-state nominations.
“I like the resiliency in this team,” he said. “Although Naples didn’t score goals, when we have given up goals or gone down goals, we’ve dug the ball out of the net and we’re not pointing fingers. We’re just figuring out what went wrong.”
In the second half, that turned into a run by Saenz, who beat a defender down the right sideline before offering a tantalizing cross over the head of the Naples goalkeeper.
Miller, who was just called up on varsity after spending all season on the junior varsity, pushed the ball with her right foot into net. Right place. Right time.
“I was like trying to dribble down the line and try to cross it in,” Saenz said. “I just kind of juked that girl and then I crossed it.”
The Tritons controlled possession and offered most of the game’s offense, but it was Naples which held Mariner scoreless until the 56th minute.