CLEARWATER — A little bit of competitiveness and a whole lot of fun. Such was Friday’s Senior Soccer Challenge where the best of Pinellas County took on Hillsborough’s finest.
“This was an awesome way to finish my high school career,” said Alabama commit and Pinellas forward Alexis Mouton, who had two goals in a 3-2 shootout win. “It’s definitely competitive because we know each other and we’re all friends. We have to compete for the win so we can brag about it later.”
With 15 minutes left, Clearwater’s Lindsey Perkins drew two defenders just inside the 18-yard box and muscled a pass to Mouton, the Palm Harbor forward who tapped the ball past the fallen goalkeeper.
“We practiced that the past two Tuesdays so that was picture-perfect,” Mouton said. “Just how we wanted it to be.”
The tiebreaker (35 yards out with dribbling and five seconds to shoot) was a mystery to the players but Mouton and Seminole’s Brandy Maulucci figured it out enough to help Pinellas prevail, 4-2.
“We thought it was PKs until they told us (differently) after the game,” said Maulucci, bound for Assumption College. “It was so nerve-racking. When I went up with the ball, I still didn’t know what I was going to do.”
The boys contest was a little more aggressive and flashy but just as close as Hillsborough won 3-2 in a shootout for a 2-1 victory.
Jacob Vila of Jesuit and Hillsborough deposited a rebound two minutes in and Northeast’s Bryan Combs drew Pinellas even early in the second half on a 30-yard rainbow.
Jesuit keeper Lucas Schmeling had two big saves and two shots hit crossbars. Schmeling stepped up again in the shootout, taking the ball off of the foot of PHU’s Eduard Huapaya before he could shoot to preserve the winner by Lennard’s Kris Ospina.
“In all honesty, this game was 100-percent competitive,” Schmeling said. “I know these guys from club soccer and I knew they would give their all. Our defense did a great job — they saved my butt — and I just came out and worked my angles in the shootout. It worked out.”