Mariner outlasted rival North Fort Myers 4-3 Friday night to capture the girls' District 3A-11 soccer championship at Moody Field.
It took a penalty-kick shootout after a 2-2 regulation tie went two scoreless overtime periods to finally decide the champion. The teams played two other times during the regular season, both being close games with Mariner coming out on top both times. This one was another dogfight.
"I'm in pure shock," said Tritons coach Lisa Schwarz. "I'm the coach of an incredible team and that was a major comeback."
North built a commanding 3-1 lead in the first half. Darian Leschewski scored first for the Red Knights at 26:28 on a direct free kick from 35 yards. She kicked it over the wall of defenders and out of the reach of Mariner goalkeeper Brittany Webb-Martin.
Melinda Lukas received a clearing kick at midfield and, on a good move ,pushed the ball past her defender. She dribbled all the way down the left sideline and left-footed it into the goal from 25 yards away at 12:31 for the first of her two goals.
The Tritons got on the scoreboard at 7:35 when Megan Fritz made the first of two penalty kicks.
At 3:44, North's Hannah Hamilton had a shot on goal glance off Webb-Martin and Lukas was there for the rebound and her second goal.
The Tritons struck quickly in the second half. Just 75 seconds into the half, freshman Holly Fritz stroked a corner kick into the center of the field. After neither team could control it, Alejandra Muro-Solis lofted the ball over goalkeeper Amy Pavy for the score.
The third goal came at 29:10, with Megan Fritz converting her second penalty kick.
"We let them back into the game, and they are a strong enough team to come back," said Red Knights coach Donna Agostinelli. "I'm proud of our team. This is the first time since 1999, that we've been in the district finals."
In the PK shootout, North scored the first three tries and Mariner missed their third. Down 3-2, Webb-Martin stopped the last two North shooters while the final two Mariner shooters put their PK's into the net. The final PK score was 4-3.
"We practiced hundreds and hundreds of PK's this week," Schwarz said.
It paid off for the Tritons, who had nine shots on goal and nine saves, while North had 12 shots on goal and 14 saves.
Describing their preparation Schwarz said, "We've been working extremely hard, but we have stepped it up this last two weeks."
The Tritons (21-3-2) host Riverdale in the regional quarterfinals Tuesday night. The Red Knights (15-5-1) go to Estero for their regional quarterfinal match.