SEMINOLE — It has been eight years since Tarpon Springs has made regionals, an uncharacteristic drought for a girls soccer program that used to be a fixture in the postseason with five appearances from 1999-2005, including the school’s only state title in 2004.
The drought ended Thursday as the second-seeded Spongers beat Clearwater 3-0 in the Class 4A, District 10 semifinals. Tarpon Springs (7-7) plays host and No. 1 seed Seminole in tonight’s championship at 7.
“That was the goal of the girls all season, to get to the district final and get into the playoffs,” Spongers coach John Freiermuth said. “They were tired of their season ending in the first or second round of districts.”
Early on, the Spongers averted disaster as the defense recovered in time to kick away what would have been an empty-net goal.
After that, Tarpon Springs washed away years of frustration with a dominating performance against the upstart Tornadoes, who were trying to make the playoffs for just the second time.
Allysa Young scored twice in the first half to give Tarpon Springs a 2-0 lead at the half.
“I’ve had a lot of scoring opportunities this season,” Young said. “There was good placement with the ball on each goal and I knew where to run and score. It was a big goal for us to make the playoffs, something we’re all proud of.”
In the second half, the Spongers rounded out the scoring on a goal by Sarah Brown, her first of the season.
The Warhawks rolled in the other semifinal, beating Largo 3-1. Gina Hayduke scored all three goals in the first half, including one from 45 yards.
Did you know?
• Seminole coach Steve Kuplicki is retiring at the end of the season. Kuplicki first coached boys soccer at Largo in 1980, the year Pinellas County recognized soccer as an interscholastic sport among public schools. He started coaching Seminole’s girls in 1988.
• Tarpon Springs split its season series with Clearwater, but both games were in early November when the Spongers were without goalkeeper Jenna Wilcox, who was still playing volleyball during Tarpon’s run to the final four. Wilcox made a diving stop in the first half of Thursday’s semifinal.
• The Spongers will be missing Jessica Finocchiaro for tonight’s final. Finocchiaro, who had two assists against Clearwater, is having her wisdom teeth removed.