PALM HARBOR — Palm Harbor University is young, very young.
Pinellas County teams know if there’s a season to beat the Hurricanes, it is this one.
Entering the final of the Hurricane Watch tournament against East Lake, the Hurricanes knew what to expect.
“They weren’t going to back down and they were going to be intense from the start, especially because it would be the last time they saw us,” PHU sophomore forward Kelly Phipps said.
Phipps was correct in her assessment as the Eagles gave the Hurricanes all they could handle before allowing an early second-half goal to Phipps and almost scoring late in a 1-0 loss.
“We were panicking too much, and much of the credit goes to the pressure East Lake was putting on us,” PHU coach John Planamenta said. “This was the type of game we needed because it’s probably the most pressure any team has put on us as far as challenging balls.”
The Hurricanes (9-2) outshot the Eagles 9-2 in the first half and had a few one-on-one chances go awry while the Eagles pushed the ball in transition and nearly took advantage of PHU’s misses only to have Hurricanes defensive unit and freshman keeper Rachel Taylor knock them away.
After the break, the Hurricanes broke the tie within the first two minutes when Phipps calmly gathered a flick-on header from Skye Barba’s header off Cory Amend’s high-arcing cross, and the Hurricanes’ leading scorer neatly pushed the ball past East Lake keeper Ashleigh Linse.
The Eagles upped the ante after that, creating four quality scoring opportunities that PHU sophomore goalie Morgan Lorenti, who took over for Taylor at halftime, brilliantly put away. East Lake’s best chance came with about eight minutes left when Amanda Byrne received a pass down the right sideline and carried it in from the right corner of the penalty box, only to have the charging Lorenti slide and kick it away.
“It was all about reaction and timing,” said Lorenti, who had five saves. “We are gaining confidence each and every game, and our chemistry and trust is getting stronger and stronger.”