PANAMA CITY BEACH — One form of pressure has been supplanted by another.
Camryn Means scored twice for Arnold to propel the Marlins to a 3-0 victory over Bay in the District 2-3A girls soccer tournament semifinals on Tuesday night at the Mike Gavlak Sports Complex.
Arnold clinched a berth in the regional tournament set to start next week. Looming first, however, is a third meeting against rival Mosley in the district championship on Friday at 7 p.m. The winner of that contest will host a regional quarterfinal game next Thursday, while the loser will play on the road.
“We are going to have to play our best (against Mosley),” said Means, limping a bit after getting kicked in the knee late against Bay. “We want to play with fun and aggressiveness, and we want to play evenly with their level of skill.”
Arnold (13-5) created numerous scoring opportunities against the Tornadoes (6-12), and Means, a freshman striker, was able to cement her team’s win with the Marlins’ final two goals.
Means and Kelli Crowley utilized clever teamwork to create Arnold’s second goal in the 39th minute. Crowley took a pass from Means and returned the favor by squeezing a pass between two defenders inside the 18-yard box. Means collected the pass and juked past a defender into open space, and she ripped a shot just under the crossbar for a 2-0 advantage at halftime.
Means said adding that goal just before the break provided a lift for the Marlins.
“It gets us pumped up to come out in the second half and get some more goals,” she said.
Means scored again in the 77th minute with a goal that was the byproductof her deft footwork with the ball at her feet. A heel flick helped her elude a pair of defenders, and she used her left foot to pull the ball back across her body for Arnold’s third goal.
“This is my first year, and I came out nervous” at the beginning of the season, Means said. “But I’ve played with these girls all my life with (Bay United) at Frank Brown Park. We work together well. And I played with coach (James) Gardner before, and he knows my strengths and weaknesses.”
Arnold jumped out to a quick lead in the game when Autumn Jaworski turned an Alivia Schnoering pass into a goal and a 1-0 margin. Schnoering’s pass crossed the face of the goal, and Jaworski beat Bay defenders to the ball to nudge it past Bay goalkeeper Tabitha Kitchen and over the goal line in the third minute.
Kitchen played very well for the Tornadoes, denying what looked like three near-certain goals in the second half to keep the game close. Bay’s offense couldn’t get on the scoreboard, however, and Arnold seemingly always had two defenders standing between the goal and the Tornadoes’ leading scorer this year, Laura Valcourt.
Now standing between the Marlins and a district title is a familiar foe, Mosley, which defeated Arnold twice by respective scores of 2-1 and 2-0 during the regular season.
“Mosley has been way more physical in the past than us, and we need to step up to the plate and take it right back at them,” Arnold goalkeeper Alexis Tanner said. “This is winner-take-all, so we’ve got to go for it.”