SEMINOLE — Palm Harbor University has been the county’s most dominant girls program the past few seasons, winning state titles in 2009 and ’10. But one title has eluded the Hurricanes during their recent run: the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship.
Wednesday night was the first time Palm Harbor University played in the PCAC title game since 2009. And the Hurricanes won it for the first time since 2008, beating Osceola 3-0.
PHU (15-0-3) entered the game with a litany of ills. The three captains, midfielders Anja Decker and Paige Lombard and defender Renee Huy, were nursing injuries and did not play. Kelly Phipps, a forward, missed the first 20 minutes with the stomach flu.
Despite those absences, the Hurricanes were able to dictate the pace with stifling defense and by taking advantage of their few scoring opportunities.
“We wanted to take some precautions with a few girls, give them a rest and hopefully have everyone ready for the district tournament next week,” PHU coach John Planamenta said. “The others got a chance to get a little more playing time and compete in a PCAC title game, and they really came through in a tough game.”
Within the first 10 minutes, the Hurricanes’ Skye Barba scored what would be the winner. Kayla Mouton added another goal to give PHU a 2-0 lead at halftime.
In the final eight minutes of regulation, Phipps scored the final goal. The win was the first time the Hurricanes on the roster had ever won a conference championship.
“It’s nice to get that first one (PCAC title) for all of us,” Phipps said. “We had some people out there who haven’t had as much playing time and they all played great. Our defense was great. We had great passes and good support on the edges.”
The next step for PHU is the district tournament and a possible run in the postseason, a daunting task considering the region and the classification (5A) are stacked.
“We’re going to have some really tough games ahead of us,” Planamenta said. “We’ve beaten the teams in our district, but they’re not far back. It’s a tough road.”