Region soccer: Palm Harbor University 1, Plant 0
PALM HARBOR — Alivia Gonzalez and Allyssa Woodring, the Palm Harbor University duo with 34 goals apiece, brought the goods Tuesday. They could have easily added a combined handful to their combined total.
But Plant goalie Emma Platt wasn't having it. She made 13 saves, more than half of them on Gonzalez, centerpiece of a persistent PHU attack on offense.
While Platt shut down the Hurricanes' vaunted scorers, it was a relatively unheralded freshman who did get one past her — and it was the only one the 'Canes needed. Defennder Isabella Mihaj scored one minute into the second half and undefeated PHU held on for a 1-0 win in the Class 5A region semifinals.
Next up for the 'Canes: a third straight region final date with Newsome.
"We're ready. They knocked us out last year. I'm glad we'll be at home," Gonzalez said. She got off nine shots Tuesday, part of a 29-7 advantage for the 'Canes, but they could only solve Platt once.
After a first half that saw the shot count 12-1, PHU (17-0-1) came out with even more purpose to start the second. Gonzalez hit the crossbar before the inexorable breakthrough off a corner kick. After a scramble, busy sophomore Brittany Kane laid a pass back to Mihaj, who calmly picked out the right corner for her fourth of the season.
PHU pushed for a second goal that never came.
"Never comfortable," said PHU coach John Planamenta. "Plant was playing these flick-on passes, and you never know..."
Tremendous sophomore captain Mary Raymond had a grip on Plant's attack, and fellow tenth-grader Jillian Fragale turned away a threatening counter-attack sparked by Shannon Snyder midway through the second half.
Plant's losses came courtesy of Newsome and PHU, and the 'Canes' only tie came at the hands of Plant (9-2-5). But last week's district final was a lopsided 5-0 result, and the course of play Tuesday could have dictated a similar result but for Platt, who dove to stop several blasts from Gonzalez and Woodring.
"I was just a little off tonight, especially on my first step," Gonzalez said.
Plant got strong play from defensive midfielder Ansley Melendi, a sophomore. Madison Huszar turned away two Gonzalez threats with blocks, and freshman Gigi Borchard showed no fear marking the senior Woodring.
Snyder had Plant's best scoring chance but her 30-yard free kick with eight minutes left was confidently snagged by PHU goalie Melanie Diaz.
The 'Canes defeated Newsome two seasons ago in the region final before last year's defeat.
"Two great programs, and both will be prepared," Planamenta said. "We just need to gel a little bit better on offense."