Region soccer: Palm Harbor University 1, Sarasota Riverview 0 (OT)
PALM HARBOR – In every way imaginable, Thursday's Class 5A region quarterfinal between Palm Harbor University and Sarasota Riverview was a test.
The visiting Rams endured a brutal three-hour commute, causing the game to start 25 minutes late. The Hurricanes ladled on more pressure with the game staying scoreless by the sheer will of Riverview sophomore keeper Katherine Gresham. Physical play amplified into overtime, where PHU sophomore Alivia Gonzalez seemingly won the game only to have it snatched away due to a goalkeeper interference call.
But when tri-captain Allyssa Woodring got the chance to finally earn PHU its berth in the semifinals, she didn't miss, drilling a 20-yard free kick in the first minute of the second 10-minute overtime for the 1-0 winner.
“When it's right outside the goal box, either me or (sophomore) Mary Raymond will take it,” Woodring said. “Coach (John Planamenta) picked me and I had a feeling about it.”
“She was playing well at the time,” Planamenta said. “She was striking the ball well and was confident. Allyssa was really working hard.”
With a five-person wall between her and the goal, Woodring drilled a hooking liner just under the left corner crossbar, allowing her Hurricane teammates to finally celebrate.
“I wanted to keep it low and place it well, and it just went in,” Woodring said. “I still can't believe it.”
Commanding midfield play from junior Lauren Acerra and senior Meg Stevenson created waves of scoring opportunities for the 'Canes, the best coming on a Woodring first-half header and Acerra's 35-yard half-volley in the second half. If not for Gresham (six first-half saves, 12 total), the game easily could have been a blowout.
“Lauren is one of the most overlooked players on our team,” Planamenta said. “She reads plays well, understands the game, and is able to push opposition attackers into double teams. She doesn't get recognized as the smart player she is.”
Now with a 16-0-1 record, PHU will host rival Plant, which dealt the 'Canes their lone blemish via a 1-1 regular-season tie, in the region semis on Tuesday.
“I think if we just have the focus that we had going into the second game we played against them (a 5-0 district final win) … leaving it all on the field no matter what happens, we'll do well,” Woodring said.