During its second-half surge this season, St. Petersburg’s girls soccer team went 5-1-1, including a victory in last week’s conference championship game.
The only loss in that span came against Sarasota Riverview, which prevented the Green Devils from claiming the top seed in the Class 5A, District 8 tournament.
On Wednesday, St. Petersburg got its rematch with the Rams. This time, the Green Devils prevailed 4-2 in the district semifinals.
St. Petersburg (10-3-2) will travel to play top-seed Bradenton Manatee in Friday’s championship game at 7 p.m. The Hurricanes beat Pinellas Park 8-0 in the other semifinal, which ended with 21 minutes left in the second half because of the mercy rule.
“The girls were really looking forward to this game against Riverview,” Green Devils coach Rui Farias said. “We lost 1-0 the first we played, and the girls felt like we should have won that one.”
The offense came through as Hannah Deson and Shaura Washington each scored within the first 30 minutes, and Jenny Bennett added a goal off a free kick from 25 yards to give St. Petersburg a 3-0 lead.
The Rams chipped away at the deficit with a goal late in the first half and another early in the second to cut it to 3-2.
Riverview did not get any closer.
Chloe Beaver scored on a header off a corner kick by Washington to put St. Petersburg up 4-2. The Rams had a goal waved off because of goalie interference, prompting one of their coaches to kick a nearby trash can in disgust.
“The last two games are probably the best I’ve seen this team play in years,” Farias said. “I could see them getting better at the midpoint of the season, and there’s been such determination lately.”
The next challenge comes against Manatee. The Green Devils tied in the first meeting and lost 8-2 in the rematch, a rout that ignited St. Petersburg’s recent turnaround.
“The girls want this one against Manatee, too,” Farias said.