EAST LAKE — Last year, East Lake struggled to beat Newsome in the Class 5A region quarterfinals, needing a late goal to win.
In Wednesday’s rematch, the Eagles did not have to sweat it out.
Megan Kelly made sure of it.
Within the first two minutes, Kelly hit a shot from 18 yards that sailed past the keeper and into the left corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.
That’s all East Lake would need in a 2-0 victory.
The Eagles (21-4-0) remained undefeated at home and set up a region semifinal with their biggest rival, Palm Harbor University, on Saturday.
“It was just wide open for me, and I was able to knock it through,” Kelly said of her goal. “It was big to get that goal so quickly because it took a lot of pressure off of us.”
Kelly was able to make the shot thanks to a huge assist from Kristy Legoas, who saved the ball from going out of bounds and sent it to Kelly.
“It was a great way to start the game, and really helped settle us in,” East Lake coach Sergei Stopek said.
In the second half, both teams struggled to find scoring opportunities. The Eagles made the most of theirs with Legoas connecting from 25 yards on a shot that went high and dropped in just below the top crossbar.
After that, East Lake secured the shutout by staying back on defense.
“The big key for us lately has been team defense,” Stopek said. “Sure, we can score goals. But we’re keeping our shape, and staying focused and really organized on defense.”
Saturday, the Eagles will play PHU for the third time this season. The teams split the games, with the Eagles winning the last in the 5A, District 8 final. This will be the first time East Lake will host the Hurricanes this year.
“These girls believe that we can continue to win,” Stopek said. “All year, they have demonstrated a lot of confidence, even in losses.”
5A: PHU has Plant's number
TAMPA — Palm Harbor University keeps finding new ways to dash Plant’s postseason hopes.
In the final seconds of their Class 5A region quarterfinal Wednesday, the Hurricanes came up with their most excruciating flourish yet in this increasingly lopsided playoff rivalry.
Alexis Mouton scored the tying goal just before the end of regulation, and Shelby Stacy sent in a header in overtime, lifting PHU to a 2-1 victory.
“I told them in overtime that we’ve been here before in years past,” said Hurricanes coach John Planamenta. “We’ve practiced this situation a lot this year, being down a goal. It’s something we work on.”
The Hurricanes (18-1) advance to a rematch against district champion East Lake.
PHU made it only by pulling off a staggering rally against the Panthers (17-2-1), who finally seemed poised to overcome their playoff struggles against teams from Pinellas County in general and the Hurricanes specifically.
Plant lost to the Hurricanes for the fifth time in six postseason appearances, and has failed to advance out of the region quarterfinals in eight of its past nine attempts. Those previous losses to PHU came by scores of 2-0, 3-1, 4-0 and 6-0, dating to 2006.
“It’s kind of a curse we have here,” Plant coach Pam Smith said. “We just can’t get past tonight. Pinellas comes over and we just have a tough time.”
The Panthers came as close as they ever have to ending that recent streak of futility.
Plant forward Abby Sanchez broke a scoreless tie with a little less than 14 minutes left, slipping the ball past senior keeper Morgan Lorenti. In a match between the best defenses in their respective counties, it looked as if that goal would be enough.
But PHU kept attacking until the final seconds, coming up short on a couple shots as time burned off the clock. With fewer than 10 seconds left in regulation, the Hurricanes saved their season on Mouton’s score out of a furious scrum in front of the Plant goal.
“It was so frantic out there,” Mouton said. “I really don’t know how it happened.”
Then PHU completed its improbable comeback with about three minutes remaining in overtime, with Stacy soaring high above Plant defenders and scoring off a pass from senior midfielder Nicole Naclerio.
“(Naclerio) and I have this connection,” Stacy said. “She always knows to look for me in these situations. …And I kept saying, ‘I got this, I got this.’
“It was the best moment of my life.”
The five-time state champions will get another shot at East Lake, which last week ended their first unbeaten and untied regular season in the 5A-8 tournament. They’ll have to overcome their own struggles against their rival, having lost three of the past four games.
A: First-half goals put Shorecrest at ease
ST. PETERSBURG — As shots sailed over the crossbar, dribbled just wide or rebounded off the post, it looked like it would be one of those nights for Shorecrest. The Chargers were dominating early in their Class A region quarterfinal against Indian Rocks Christian, but had nothing to show for it.
That changed in the 27th minute when Sophie Wiltshire scored on a left-footer from 25 yards out that went just past keeper Alex Cruetz and into the right edge of the goal. With the ice broken, Shorecrest went on to win 3-0.
The Chargers (18-3-2) host Tampa Prep on Saturday at 7. Indian Rocks Christian, which qualified for regionals for the first time in three years, finished 9-10-1.
“I kind of felt like once one goes in, then we can relax and not have that ‘Oh my gosh’ feeling,” Shorecrest coach Neal Wolfrath said.
“And it was big to get that second goal just before the half. It helped us relax a little bit.”
That goal came with just two minutes left when Skyler Ellenburg launched a perfectly placed cross 5 yards in front of the goal. Jade Caswell tapped in a left-footer from point-blank range.
Shorecrest had an opportunity to get a third goal seconds later when IRC was called for a handball in the 18-yard box. But Ellenburg missed the penalty kick wide left.
Shorecrest continued to pepper Cruetz with shots. But the Chargers didn’t score their final goal until three minutes remained. Erika Tvedten ran onto a pass 10 yards from the net and knocked in the shot.
“We kind of got bogged down in the middle of the field in the second half,” Wolfrath said. “But that happens some times. We were sharp for most of the game.”
4A: Tarpon Springs comes up short to familiar foe
PLANT CITY — Lorena Gutierrez couldn’t have picked a better time for her first goal of the season.
Gutierrez tapped in as score just past the midway point of the second half to lift Plant City 3-2 over Tarpon Springs in a Class 4A region quarterfinal.
“I just saw the cross come in and tried to get my foot on it,” Gutierrez said. “All I wanted to do was keep my body between me and the defender and get my foot on it.”
Diana Corzine took a ball deep into the right corner and wiggled past a defender. She sent a ball in toward the goal mouth that just sailed over the keeper’s hands and onto the waiting feet of Gutierrez, who knocked home the winner in the 66th minute.
Plant City (10-3-3), which also knocked off the Spongers last season in the region quarterfinals, took the lead at 1-0 and 2-1 but Tarpon Springs (11-5) fought back each time to tie.
“We’d score and then they would keep coming back,” Plant City coach Caleb Roberts said. “But I told them at the half it would take all 11 of them to win this game and they really stuck together.”
Kellee Brown gave the Raiders a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute but Alyssa Young equalized eight minutes before the half, sending in an arcing shot goal. Christina Gutierrez again gave Plant City the lead two minutes out of the break from about 30 yards out, but the
Spongers’ Soleil Duplain answered 14 minutes later, tapping in a rebound to tie it at 2.
The match was delayed roughly 25 minutes early in the first half when the Spongers’ Sarah Brown was taken off the field by ambulance with a right ankle injury.
“Sarah is really the leader and to not have her here, even on the sidelines, was a big emotional letdown,” Tarpon Springs coach John Freiermuth said. “But I’m very proud of the girls and the way they kept fighting back.”
Clearwater Central Catholic 6, Frostproof 0: Ahead 2-0 at the half, the Marauders poured it on in the second half with four goals to complete the rout in 2A. Abbie Harkins led CCC with two goals. Kelly Shanahan, Caroline Booth and Katie Englert also scored.
“It’s hard sitting on a bus and traveling more than two hours for a game,” coach Tom Typrowicz said. “But we did a good job of getting ahead and then really put it together in the second half. Defensively, I think we held them to one shot in the second half, as well.”
Seminole 3, East Bay 0: Last week, Warhawks coach Gary Kolb stressed finishing scoring opportunities after struggling to put away Tarpon Springs in the district final. On Wednesday, Seminole continued to fire at will in the 4A quarterfinal, outshooting the Indians 25-4. And the Warhawks capitalized on their scoring chances, building a 2-0 halftime lead. Olivia Red, a freshman, scored twice and has 31 goals this season. Mia Matacchiero had the other goal for Seminole.
“It was a very physical game,” Kolb said. “I thought we possessed the ball well, moved it around finished opportunities.”
Osceola 9, Lennard 0: The game was all but over within the first few minutes as the Warriors scored quickly with their starters before emptying their bench in the 3A quarterfinal. The game was called at halftime because of the mercy rule.
Rebecca Dirks had two goals to lead Osceola.
St. Petersburg Catholic 5, Lake Placid 0: Brooke Coughlin scored three goals and Erin Hillman and Meggie Dougherty-Howard each had one for the Barons in the 2A matchup. SPC outshot Lake Placid 21-1 and led 2-0 at the half.
“After we went ahead in the first half, I started subbing in a lot of players,” coach Randy Villalba said. “I wanted to make sure our starters got some rest before our rematch with CCC later this week.”
Times staff writers Joel Anderson, Rodney Page and Bob Putnam, and correspondent Brandon Wright contributed to this report.