ST. PETERSBURG — It didn't evoke the euphoria of the district semifinal victory over nationally ranked Clearwater Central Catholic two weeks ago. It didn't create the excitement of a shutout against Lakeland McKeel Academy last week.
But what Tuesday's win did do for St. Petersburg Catholic was historic enough: it clinched the school's first region final appearance.
The Barons pushed the pace early, playing the offensive-minded soccer that lifted them to a 3-0 win over Tampa Catholic. It has been a remarkable turnaround for the Barons, who graduated nine players from last year's team, including four who signed with Division I schools. SPC (11-11-0) entered the district tournament with a losing record but has now won four straight, all by shutout.
"We were young and we played a tough schedule during the regular season," SPC coach Gary Kolb said. "The players just got it by the time districts rolled around. They started to jell."
In the first half, Erin Soto scored to give the Barons a 1-0 lead. SPC added to its lead in the second half with goals from Olivia Wilkinson and Sarah Trumball. That was all the Barons would need.
Anchored by goalkeeper Maggie Dalessio and stifling defense, SPC frustrated Tampa Catholic (6-12-1) and kept its postseason shutout streak alive.
Dalessio made several saves. When she did flub, somebody came to clear the ball from danger.
The win was the Barons' third straight against Tampa Catholic and their second in the postseason.
"I was worried because we were playing a team for the third time," Kolb said. "But we made adjustments, played well on defense and were patient."