Betters hat trick downs Pasco, Eagles advance to Regional Semifinals
By Danny Aiello Jr
Spring Hill – For most of the season, the Springstead Lady Eagles could count on the tandem Erin Blackwell and Sammie Betters when things got rough on the pitch.
Once again, this tried-and-true method proved successful, as host Springstead beat the visiting Pasco Pirates 4-0 in the Class 3A Regional Quarterfinal match Thursday night.
“(Blackwell and Betters) are consistent, they are great players.” Eagles head coach Richard Gomez said. “They make big plays in big games and they are stepping up to the plate.”
After being outplayed by the Pirates (12-5-2) for the first 28 minutes of the first half, the Eagles (20-1-1) would turn to Betters to get them on the board. A chip shot from 30-yards out floated over the outstretched arms of Pasco keeper Caylee Watkins, marking her 46th goal of the season, and a 1-0 lead for Springstead with 12:22 remaining in the first half.
“The team reacts very well to myself and Erin working hard.” Betters said. “It is not a bad thing, I don’t think they rely on us overall, but sometimes we have to get things going.”
However, it was the play of keeper Nicole Sullivan that allowed the Eagles to settle into a groove and get on the board first. The transfer from Hernando High, turned away four shots in the opening minutes and recorded her eighth shutout of the season, one shy of the Springstead school record.
“Once I set the rhythm, everyone can rely on me and know I’m back there.” Sullivan said. “If I’m working hard they will too.”
With 8:01 remaining in the half, Blackwell tallied her 20th assist, finding Kimberly Gibson in the box who shot just to the left Watkins’ arms, giving Springstead a 2-0 lead, but the scoring was just getting started for the Hernando County squad.
The second half would see the Eagles on the attack early and often, as Betters scored her 47th and 48th goals of the season, completing her hat-trick with 7:35 remaining in the game.
Betters, a junior, had set the Springstead single-season goal record with the 46 she scored her freshman year. After missing her Sophomore year with a torn ACL, she would rebound this season by breaking her own record with at least one more contest left in the season.
The win for the Eagles marks only the second win in 13 trips to the postseason, but wins over Hudson and Pasco could give them momentum heading into a semifinal clash against Land O’ Lakes.
“This isn’t about me. It’s all about the girls on the field,” an emotional Gomez said. “I’ve had my time. I’m just glad I’m here to see the success that they are experiencing.
The Gators, coming off a 5-0 win against the Hudson Cobras, will host the regional semifinal Tuesday night.
“They are a great, solid team.” Gomez said. “The preparation won’t change and we will play how we practice. We’ve had a high level of practice all year and it will carry over.”
SPR – Betters (44) 12:22 (no assist)
SPR – Gibson (11) 8:01 assisted by Blackwell (20)
SPR – Betters (45) 31:31 assisted by Hiller (4)
SPR – Betters (46) 7:35 (no assist)
Yellow – SPR – Kayla Britain
Red – None
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