FORT WALTON BEACH — Through two games and most of a third, the Choctawhatchee Lady Indians had yet to figure out how to score against Arnold’s defense.
So, after watching his team enter the final 10 minutes of Friday night’s District 2-3A championship match at Choctaw, Lady Indians head coach Jeff Rynearson decided to move an extra attacker into the offensive end in hopes of scoring that elusive goal.
It worked — twice, and the Lady Indians produced their first district title in girls soccer with a 2-1 victory.
Trailing Arnold 1-0 deep into the district title match, Choctaw scored two goals in the final 10 minutes. The game-tying score came on a penalty kick from senior Ashley Quackenbush and the gamewinner was a one-on-one bullet from sophomore Kelsey Douglas.
“We were getting a little desperate,” Rynearson said. “So we decided to make a change and go entirely offensive. We changed to a 3-3-4 look and brought an extra attacker in and I think that triggered something in our girls’ minds. They knew it was now or never.”
Arnold dominated on both ends of the field for nearly 70 minutes. In the first half, the Marlins outshot the Indians 7-4, and Arnold’s back line never allowed Choctaw to get a solid look at goal.
The Marlins took the lead midway through the first half when midfielder Kelli Crowley connected from nearly 35 yards, blasting a shot through Choctaw keeper Sam Shaw to put Arnold up 1-0.
That lead held throughout the remainder of the first half and much of the second as Choctaw failed to mount a serious offensive attack until late in the contest.
Choctaw dominated time of possession in the waning minutes, forcing Arnold’s back line to defend shot after shot. That eventually led to a handball call in the Arnold box in the 71st minute. After some deliberation, it was Quackenbush who got the call and she drilled the ball into the left corner past the lunge of Arnold keeper Raye Sutton.
The Lady Indians stayed on the attack, ultimately leading to a perfect pass from Dani Weyer to a streaking Douglas. She threaded a shot past Sutton into the left side of the net to give the Lady Indians the improbable come-from-behind win.
Choctaw outshot Arnold 11-7 as the Lady Indians limited the Marlins to just one shot on goal in the second half. The loss avenged two earlier setbacks to the Marlins who had beaten Choctaw 1-0 and 2-0 during the regular season.
Choctaw advanced to host West Florida Tech in a Region 1-3A quarterfinal on Wednesday. Arnold, 12-12-1, will play at Gulf Breeze.