TARPON SPRINGS — When it comes to soccer in northern Pinellas County, there’s no such thing as rebuilding.
The boys and girls teams of Palm Harbor University and East Lake demonstrated that in early-season contests on Thursday.
On the girls side, the Hurricanes, who were playing without injured Paige Lombard, pulled away in the second half after a 1-1 tie at halftime with second-half goals by sophomore midfielder Skye Barba and freshman midfielder Alexis Mouton to win 3-1.
“We lost a lot of seniors and key players (from the 2009-10 state title squad) so the younger players need to learn the system and we made some strides tonight,” Hurricanes coach John Planamenta said of his team that boasts just four seniors. “Paige will be an instrumental part in how our team plays because she is so versatile. If we need her to fall back on defense, she’s more than capable. If we need her to move forward and attack and create opportunities, she can do that with ease as well. Things are encouraging.”
Likewise on the boys side, where the Hurricanes have five seniors in the starting lineup. PHU looks to duplicate its successful run last season that ended in a loss in the state playoffs. The Hurricanes finished in a scoreless tie with the Eagles but, along with East Lake, appeared to be in midseason form.
“I have six seniors who have been with the varsity since their freshman year so they’ve experienced what it takes to win a title and they’ll have to do their part this year in grooming the younger guys,” PHU coach Alex Delgado said. “I wouldn’t necessarily call it a rebuilding year. It might take a little longer for things to come around this year but I believe the sky’s the limit.”
For East Lake, things are even brighter with 10 seniors involved who have been with the program since their freshman year. Two of those seniors, James Cusick and Tanner Guy, created many opportunities against the Hurricanes with a few of their nifty shots from outside the edge of the penalty box, barely missing the goal.
“The confidence level is high, but it’s with just a tiny bit of reservation,” East Lake coach Sergei Stopek said. “The seniors have been there so it’s easy to coach this bunch because they know the routine and you don’t have to say things twice. We just have to find that balance between seizing the moment and letting the game come to us. We’re excited about where this team can go.”