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PALM HARBOR — There was an air of inevitability to the Pinellas County Athletic Conference girls soccer championship game. The divisions prepared for it. The fans wanted it. The players expected it.
They all got it.
A final between Osceola and Palm Harbor University, anticipated since the season began, happened Tuesday night in a matchup of the remaining undefeated teams in the county.
The rematch of last year’s title game, though, turned out to be not much of a contest.
The Hurricanes’ defense made sure of it in a 2-0 victory. In the past two conference championship games, PHU has outscored the Warriors 5-0.
“Our defense was real strong, especially in the back,” PHU coach John Planamenta said. “But it’s been that way all season.”
Coaches in many sports like to say defense wins championships, and the Hurricanes (16-0) have the best in the county. They have allowed just eight goals this season.
PHU’s defensive work extended from midfield back to the keeper and neutralized Osceola’s strength, which was speed.
“(Osceola) has a lot of fast attackers, so we had to kind of pinch in the back,” Hurricanes defender Quinn Lombard said. “We had to change our tactics a bit, but it worked.”
Lombard, along with the rest of the back line, was calm and confident as they repeatedly quelled the Warriors’ pushes before they turned too dangerous.
PHU moved the ball crisply in spurts, frequently sparked by midfield steals of casual passes.
In the first half, the Hurricanes broke through as Alyssa Skryd scored to make it 1-0. PHU had trouble capitalizing on chances in the second half and didn’t score again until 56th minute when Skye Barba connected on a shot from about 20 yards that was above the reach of the keeper.
“It was a fast-paced game,” Barba said. “Everybody was tired in the second half, but I had the opportunity with that ball and just had to go for it to get that goal.”
The game served as tuneup for teams expected to make deep runs in the playoffs in their respective classifications.
“Osceola has a real strong team,” Planamenta said. “There’s not a lot of weakness over there. It was a good test for us to get ready for what comes next in the district tournament.”