PALM HARBOR — Last year, East Lake and Palm Harbor University played four times in girls soccer with nearly every match coming down to the final minute.
On Tuesday, the rivals met again. This time, it wasn’t as close.
The Hurricanes’ defense made sure of it.
PHU held the Eagles’ high-powered offense to one first-half goal in a 3-1 victory. The victory helped the Hurricanes (6-0) exact revenge against East Lake (10-2), which beat PHU in the region semifinals last season.
“We knew they were a really dangerous team,” Hurricanes coach John Planamenta said. “We had to really pack it in on defense.”
The Eagles had outscored opponents by a combined 34-2 and had posted nine shutouts entering Tuesday’s match. But another blowout was going to be tough considering how quickly both teams started. Within the first four minutes, PHU’s Katie Im and East Lake’s Emily Cady each scored.
Skye Barba gave the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead when she headed a ball off a corner kick that ricocheted off the bar and headed back into the net on the rebound. Barba added a second-half goal to round out the scoring.
“We knew they were real strong offensively and could come back at any time,” Barba said. “We just had to adjust and stay real organized on defense. They have a lot of speed and we just had to be ready.”
Last year, PHU won three of the four meetings, including the Class 5A, District 8 title in overtime. This was their only meeting in the regular season, and the win gives the Hurricanes the advantage in clinching the No. 1 seed in the district.
“This is a big win, but East Lake is such a good team that I’m sure we’ll see them again down the road,” Planamenta said.
In the boys game, the Eagles got off to a quick start, scoring three first-half goals in a 3-1 victory over PHU. It was the first time East Lake had beaten its rival since 2009.
East Lake (6-2) dictated the pace in the first 25 minutes and got goals from Mathias Ghiena, Taylor Youngblood and Stephen Wankat.
“We talked before the game about how we couldn’t sit back,” Eagles coach Alex Stenson said. “We needed to jump out quickly and take the crowd out of the game and the boys responded.”
The Hurricanes (5-2-1) regrouped in the second half and cut into the deficit on a goal from Anthony Colannino. But PHU could not get any closer.
“East Lake came out and was focused on winning the first 20 minutes,” Hurricanes coach Alex Delgado said. “We came out a little timid.
“We just have to forget about this loss, take the positives and work on our weaknesses.”