TAMPA — Palm Harbor University’s Shalisa Crowell scored a goal Tuesday off a set piece in the 52nd minute of a district match against Plant. And for most of the game at Dads Stadium, it appeared the Hurricanes would seal their eighth shutout of the season.
Panthers forward Abby Sanchez wasn’t about to let that happen.
In the 76th minute, Sanchez, who was standing in the box, saw the ball flying her way from a free kick. Instinctively, she jumped.
“I’m shorter than everyone, but I decided to jump as high as I could,” she said. “The ball was coming towards me so I just aimed it in the goal.”
Sanchez’s leap yielded a tying header goal for Plant (5-2-2). The game ended less than five minutes later at 1-1.
The final score was a fitting result for the stalemate. PHU (7-0-3, 4-0-1) coach John Planamenta said even though his players struggled to generate a lot of attack, he was pleased with their defensive effort.
Still, the Panthers’ lone score — off a set piece just like the Hurricanes’ goal — was difficult to defend.
“We played well defensively against them during the game,” Planamenta said. “But when a team is down 1-0 they usually put a little more energy into the attack.”
The Plant boys, who beat PHU 1-0, saw themselves in a similar situation later in the evening, as the district battle looked evenly matched from the start. The Hurricanes had three shots on goal in the first half to Plant’s two, but neither team followed through on its chances.
In the 44th minute, James Talka flicked a ball to Zach Thompson. The Hurricane defender misplayed it, and Thompson faced a one-on-one opportunity with the goalkeeper. Thompson shot and scored, letting out a victorious scream as he made his way back to midfield.
PHU (5-3, 1-1) had shots on goal late in the second half, but Plant goalkeeper Barrett LaVielle came up with big saves to hold the Hurricanes scoreless and give Plant (2-2-4, 1-1-1) its first shutout win of the season.
The Panthers began their campaign with four ties and two losses. Closing out a game on the winning side, Thompson said, is no doubt a step in the right direction.
“Losing nine seniors last year, we have a lot of new players,” he said. “We’re a strong team, and we’ve continued to build, not taking any steps backwards.”