MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
SEMINOLE — Having already wrapped up the top seed for the district (5A-11) tournament, the East Lake boys soccer team looked toward a Pinellas County Athletic Conference North County championship.
Thanks to a 2-0 shutout of Seminole on Tuesday night, the Eagles are one step closer to making that a reality. East Lake can clinch the North County championship with wins over Clearwater and Tarpon Springs next week.
Matthew Kimball’s header off a corner kick from Brent Merrick with 22 minutes left proved to be the winner for the Eagles (11-1-2).
“I thought our possession was really good tonight,” East Lake coach Sergei Stopek said. “I’m actually very happy to see that since that was our first game back in two weeks, since the Countryside game.”
Goalkeeper Ryan Downey did his best to single-handedly keep the Warhawks (10-6-2) in the game. On four occasions, Downey kept the Eagles off the scoreboard by diving and deflecting a sure goal out of play.
“He had a great game tonight,” Stopek said.
East Lake kept applying pressure after taking a 1-0 lead and was rewarded when Brett Hummel got loose behind the Warhawks’ defense. Seminole’s Bruno Sinibaldi was the only defender remaining between Hummel and the goal, and Sinibaldi tackled Hummel from behind, resulting in Sinibaldi’s red-card ejection with 10 minutes remaining.
Playing with a man advantage, East Lake wrapped up the victory with a little more than two minutes remaining when Nicholas Patterson beat Downey to a long pass and easily scored on the open goal with Downey out of the picture.
“The better team won tonight,” Seminole coach Rick Masi said. “They had more want-to tonight than we did. That was obvious.”
In the girls match between the Eagles and the Warhawks, Megan Lawrence lofted a high, arching shot from 30 yards that found the upper-left corner of the East Lake goal to help Seminole rally for a 3-2 victory.
Lawrence started in defense for Seminole but was pushed up top by coach Steve Kuplicki to generate more firepower after East Lake started taking control.
“I wish I could clone her and put one up top and one in the back,” Kuplicki said, laughing.
After falling behind 1-0, East Lake (7-5-1) tied the game before halftime on a goal from Tatiana Perez. The Eagles went ahead 2-1 in the second half when Kendall Fordham ripped a shot from the edge of the 18 that hit the crossbar and bounced down across the goal line. Melanie Benner rebounded a missed shot into goal to equalize for Seminole (12-2-2) 10 minutes later, and Lawrence’s winner came with just less than 20 minutes remaining.
Palm Harbor University 3, Countryside 2
Palm Harbor University rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the second half and kept alive its chances for the district tournament’s top seed.
Ben Sweat scored the winner with 10 minutes remaining. On the counterattack, Sweat received a pass from P.J. McDonald then weaved his way through the Countryside defense. Earlier in the half, McDonald scored the equalizer for PHU (11-4-3) on a feed from Sweat.
The teams entered halftime with the score tied at 1.
For the Hurricanes, the win avenges a 4-2 loss to the Cougars (9-6-1) in the quarterfinals of the High School Invitational.
Palm Harbor University 3, Countryside 0
The Hurricanes moved one step closer toward securing the PCAC North County championship.
PHU (13-0-1) scored three second-half goals to trip up the Cougars (9-3) for the second time in a row — the Hurricanes defeated Countryside 4-1 in the Hurricane Watch final, the last game before the break for both teams.
PHU got on the scoreboard 10 minutes after the break with Queli Ornelas’ goal.
Five minutes later, Catherine Brinkman made it 2-0. Kelly Phipps had the final goal.
Berkeley Prep 3, Clearwater Central Catholic 0
Clearwater Central Catholic trailed 2-0 entering halftime on the road at Berkeley Prep and couldn’t recover.
Samantha Newhaller, Amber Famiglietti and Taylor Bayte scored for Berkeley, which wrapped up the top seed for the 3A-10 district tournament and finished its district schedule undefeated.