PALM HARBOR — For 20 minutes, Palm Harbor University was on its heels, trying to find a way to slow down East Lake’s aggressive attack.
There was no score in the bitter rivalry, but the Hurricanes knew they needed a goal from their sometimes stagnant offense to slow down the momentum.
Alexis Mouton provided it.
The senior forward scored midway through the first half to give PHU the lead. Mouton didn’t stop, adding two more goals to lift the Hurricanes to a 3-0 win in the Class 5A, District 7 semifinals.
PHU (13-0-5) will host Plant (13-3-1), which beat Steinbrenner 3-2, in tonight’s final at 7.
“That first goal was so important because it took the pressure of us,” Mouton said. “East Lake was very dominant early on, and that goal solidified things for us. It helped slow everything down and let us know we can win.”
The Hurricanes defense has been solid, allowing six goals all season. But PHU had trouble finishing on offense, and the lack of scoring led to five ties, a big reason it fell to the No. 3 seed in the tournament and was forced to play the Eagles in the semifinals.
East Lake had the better results lately, knocking off PHU in the region semifinals the past two seasons. Thursday’s game had even more at stake because it came in the district semifinals, the loser missing out on the state playoffs.
Mouton helped change things in the rivalry thanks to her offensive outburst. She has become a bona fide scoring threat in the district tournament, scoring three goals in the Hurricanes’ 4-1 win over Alonso in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
“We’ve had some issues finishing,” PHU coach John Planamenta said. “It’s something I talked about with the team and with Alexis before the tournament started. And we needed against East Lake because they outplayed us for most of the game.”