TARPON SPRINGS — Megan Kelly scored the winner in East Lake’s first playoff game.
She scored the winner in the second, too, against Palm Harbor University on Saturday night.
So it seemed only fitting that teammate Melissa Redfield would serenade the red-hot Eagles senior with a song.
“That girl is on fiiiirrrrre…” bellowed Redfield, a few moments after the Eagles delivered an electric 2-1 victory before more than 1,000 fans in a Class 5A region semifinal.
While Alicia Keys may have nothing to worry about, the rest of the Class 5A field might. East Lake (23-4) beat the Hurricanes to advance to the region final for the second straight year and will host Vero Beach on Tuesday.
Kelly’s goal in the 50th minute broke the tie, and the hearts of the PHU faithful. It was a shocking but perfectly-placed 35-yard play into the upper 90 that PHU keeper Morgan Lorenti couldn’t get a hand on.
“I was in middle of field and no one was on me and I had space, so I turned and launched one,” said Kelly, who admitted to hoping a teammate would have a play on it. But the ball kept sailing, and sailing …
“It was probably a one-in-a-million shot,” she said.
East Lake’s Madison Del Duca and PHU’s Skye Barba traded first half goals before Kelly’s winner.
PHU, whose only losses in a 19-2 season were to East Lake, furiously rallied in the final 10 minutes, but couldn’t get anything past keeper Ashleigh Linse, who laid out for a point-blank stop in the first half and made another spectacular diving save late in the second half.
With a minute remaining Barba played one into the box that Sarah Raymond tried to convert via diving header, but ball and head just missed connecting.
“Would have been goal of the year,” PHU coach John Planamenta lamented afterward, with a smile.
On this night, however, that honor stayed with the girl on fire.
2A: SPC sweeps CCC
ST. PETERSBURG — Though he is in his first year as girls soccer coach, St. Petersburg Catholic’s Randy Villalba already understood the history — and intensity — with rival Clearwater Central Catholic.
After all, Villalba was a part of it as a boys player for the Barons.
In girls soccer, the schools have met in the district tournament three straight seasons, and squared off in the Class 2A region semifinals for the second straight season Saturday night.
SPC had won the previous two meetings, including a tight 1-0 victory in last week’s district championship. This time, it wasn’t as close as the Barons won 3-0.
“The girls knew this was going to be a tough game,” Villalba said. “I mean, it’s against CCC. It always is. The girls were not happy with how close the last game was. I just think they showed a lot of heart.”
Villalba said the district final was so close in part because it was played on CCC’s turf field, which required the Barons to make adjustments to accommodate for the speed of the game.
“This time, it was at home and on grass, and that was a huge plus for us,” Villalba said.
In the first half, Hannah Dawkins scored what turned out to be the winning goal to give SPC (17-3) a 1-0 lead.
“I just got a great pass and was excited to score and help our team take another step toward making the state title game,” Dawkins said.
The Barons added to their lead in the second half as Erin Hillman scored off a corner kick and Brooke Coughlin had a breakaway goal.
In three games, SPC has outscored the Marauders a combined 7-1. That’s quite a turnaround from last season when CCC won all three meetings.
4A: PK KOs Seminole
SEMINOLE — With just seconds remaining in Seminole’s season, Warhawks goalie Alex Jones yelled from the box, trying to jump-start her teammates.
“Hey, Seminole, this game is not over,” Jones told them. “Give it everything you’ve got!”
The Warhawks (21-6-2) tried to do just that, but it wasn’t enough against a scrappy Plant City team, which won the Class 4A semifinal 1-0.
Cristina Gutierrez was the difference maker as her penalty kick with just 26:44 remaining advanced the Raiders (11-3-3) to the region finals. Gutierrez got the play on a tripping call that Warhawks coach Gary Kolb disagreed with.
“In a regional playoff game, you have to be consistent with the calls, and (the referees) just weren’t consistent,” Kolb said. “(Plant City) played pretty good defense, but we had many, many opportunities to score tonight and just couldn’t.”
Plant City sophomore keeper Lauren Taylor Michael had seven saves as both teams worked to play keep away. The Warhawks were aggressive toward the box, but couldn’t complete the play. If it wasn’t Michael in the net, it was a series of Seminole fouls that disrupted the team’s overall rhythm.
“I told my girls at the beginning that they are going to be a physical team,” Raiders coach Caleb Roberts said. “If we get to the ball, they might foul you, but you have to get to the ball first.”
Jones had two saves on three shots for Seminole.
“We’re just fine-tuning the machine at this point,” Roberts said. “These players trust each other, and we know we can play. And when we play, we can play with anybody. We’re really starting to prove that now.”
A: Shorecrest finally breaks through
ST. PETERSBURG — The Shorecrest girls soccer team saw five years of frustration come to an end Saturday, as the Chargers battled through six rounds of penalty kicks to defeat Tampa Prep 2-1 in the Class A region semifinals.
The Chargers advance to their first region final since 2007 on Tuesday, when they host Lakeland Christian at 7 p.m.
“It’s a huge hurdle for us,” coach Neal Wolfrath said. “For five years we haven’t been able to get past Tampa Prep.”
Tampa Prep’s Amanda Hill settled a pass late in the first half and floated a shot from 18 yards out into the upper-left corner of the goal to make it 1-0.
The score stayed that way until 10 minutes remained in the game. That’s when Skyler Ellenburg broke free on the right side of the 18-yard box and found the lower-left corner to tie it.
It remained that way through two 10-minute overtime periods. In penalty kicks, both teams made their first four shots. Both missed their fifth shots.
In the sixth round, Caneel Dixon’s shot was denied, which allowed Kai Greenlees to take the winning shot. She put it in the upper-right corner.
“I just tried to clear my mind,” Greenlees said. “I was so nervous. But I picked a corner and just went with it.”
Staff writers Bob Putnam and Rodney Page, and correspondent Michael Hinman contributed to this report.