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CLEARWATER — At the start of the season, Clearwater Central Catholic struggled mightily, winning just one of its first six games.
It was strange to see so many losses pile up for a program that has three state titles and has been to the playoffs 21 times, including the state semifinals last season.
The Marauders’ woes were due to a tough schedule, as well as missing several starters for the first part of the season while they finished up fall sports.
But CCC got back to full strength, rebounding with wins against three of its four regular-season opponents in Class 2A, District 9 and earning the No. 2 seed. Wednesday the Marauders completed their turnaround with a 2-0 win over Berkeley Prep in the district semifinals.
CCC (8-10-2) will host rival St. Petersburg Catholic in Friday’s championship. The Barons advanced with a 4-1 victory over Academy of the Holy Names.
“It was a tough way to start the season,” Marauders coach Tom Typrowicz said. “Right or wrong, I wanted to schedule as many 5A and 6A teams during the season so our girls could get used to that speed. We didn’t have everyone with us right away, and that hurt. But we’re better now.”
During a stretch run of district games in December, CCC was without its top two goalkeepers. One of those games was a 3-1 loss to SPC in the teams’ only regular-season meeting.
The Marauders rebounded to win every district game after that loss. Wednesday, CCC wasted little time keeping its streak alive in district play as Abigail Harkins scored off a rebound within the first 25 seconds against Berkeley Prep. Katie Englert scored on a penalty kick in the second for the Marauders other goal.
“It’s always a close game with Berkeley Prep, and I think it helped to get ahead so quickly,” Typrowicz said. “It means so much to win this game because we also get to advance to the playoffs.”
In the other semifinal, top-seeded St. Petersburg Catholic led 2-1 at the half before breaking open the game with two goals in the final 40 minutes.
Meggie Dougherty-Howard, the Barons’ captain, scored two of her team’s goals. The others were by Erin Hillman and Ashley Mevoli. SPC (14-3) has been dominant in district play, beating the other four teams in the regular season by a combined score of 20-3.