PALM HARBOR — After a series of close calls in the first month of the season, East Lake coach Charley Ferro knew this week’s Hurricane Watch tournament provided the perfect tonic to cure his team’s ills.
“We weren’t playing well and we were in a lot of tight games,” Ferro said. “I e-mailed the girls and said this is the tournament that could turn our season around.”
The Eagles responded with their best game of the season Monday, beating Countryside 5-0 in the first round.
“It took a while, but we were able to get things going,” Ferro said. “We got our forwards moving and we challenged them to play more physical.”
In the first half, it appeared as if East Lake (7-2-1) would be locked in another low-scoring game. Amanda Byrne scored the Eagles’ only goal of the half off an assist from Madison Del Duca.
Then the goals came in bunches in the second half. Del Duca scored once, Byrne added another and Kristy Legoas scored twice as East Lake won in a rout.
“The girls feel like they have not gotten much recognition this year,” Ferro said. “They can get it by doing well in this tournament. We’re off to a good start.”
In the second game, host Palm Harbor University took advantage of a balanced attack to beat St. Petersburg 3-0.
Katie Im, a freshman, scored with 14 minutes remaining in the first half to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead.
In the second half, Renee Huy added a goal in the 47th minute. Paige Lombard scored 10 minutes later off a corner kick by Anja Decker.
“The wind was a factor in the game,” PHU coach John Planamenta said. “But it’s nice to be able spread things out among the scoring.”
The Hurricanes (9-2) dictated the pace and outshot the Green Devils 17-2.
After losing seven starters to graduation from a team that won its second straight state title last season, PHU started off in a rebuilding mode. But after dealing with injuries and inexperience at the start of the season, the Hurricanes have won nine of their past 10, including their second straight over St. Petersburg.
“We’re still young, but we’re starting to come together,” Planamenta said. “The girls are starting to get it. And I’ve been fortunate enough to have girls that know the game.”