MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
PALM HARBOR — Close games have become standard when East Lake and Palm Harbor University meet in girls soccer.
In two regular-season games, the Hurricanes tied 1-1 and won 2-0 against their fiercest rival.
So it was expected goals would be at a premium in Friday night’s Class 5A, District 8 championship game.
The game was scoreless at halftime. The second half did not have much offense either. Then with less than 16 minutes remaining in regulation, Palm Harbor University’s Nicole Naclerio hit a shot from 30 yards on a free kick that teammate Paige Lombard was able to head in for a 1-0 victory.
“Nikki hit a great ball and I was able to play and get in position for a goal,” Lombard said. “It was sloppy at times, and it was a game that could have gone into overtime. I’m just glad we scored when we did.”
The Hurricanes (17-0-3) started quickly, mounting an offensive attack in the first minute with Naclerio hitting a shot that ricocheted off the top crossbar. After that, the Eagles (13-2-3) clamped down on defense.
“It was a tough match, which is what we expected,” Hurricanes coach John Planamenta said. “East Lake was able to put some pressure on us and take away some of our momentum. We spent the second half trying to get the momentum of their hands.”
Planamenta did it by relying on his forwards on defense.
“We made a few adjustments and our forwards had to work that much harder,” Planamenta said. “We were able to make some substitutions for them because we knew they were going to be tired.”
Defense has always been the Hurricanes’ calling card. This season they allowed just six goals. PHU did not allow East Lake many chances on offense, especially after producing the game’s only score.
The win was gratifying for the Hurricanes not only because it came against a rival but also because it allows them to host a postseason game in one of the toughest regions in the state.
“It was a big one for us,” Planamenta said. “You always want to be the district champs and host. Plus, we had no injuries or cards.”
Clearwater Central Catholic 4, St. Petersburg Catholic 0: The Marauders exacted revenge from last season’s semifinal by jumping out to a fast start in the Class 2A, District 9 final against their rival. By halftime, CCC was ahead 4-0. Alexandra Alberdi scored twice.
Seminole 4, Tarpon Springs 0: Ahead 1-0 at the half, the Warhawks broke open a close game with three goals in the second half of the Class 4A, District 10 final. Kaleigh Ford, Gina Hayduke, Brandy Maulucci and Mia Matacchiero scored for Seminole.
Osceola 3, Palmetto 1: The Warriors, who already secured their second straight playoff appearance, won the Class 3A-10 title thanks to an offense that was able to capitalize on opportunities. Osceola outshot Palmetto 11-4 but needed a goal in the second for some breathing room. Samantha Pifer, Cassidy Reich and Alison Watkins scored for the Warriors.
Bradenton St. Stephen’s 3, Shorecrest 0: The Chargers fell behind in the first 10 minutes, giving up a goal in the first minute. Shorecrest was able to control the pace for stretches but was unable to produce many scoring opportunities.