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5A region soccer: Palm Harbor U. punches ticket to state

PALM HARBOR — With each missed Palm Harbor University shot, the tone of the Hurricanes' supporters morphed from concern to full-scale pleading.

The Hurricanes had been in this situation before with region final opponent Seminole. Three weeks earlier in the PCAC championship, PHU outshot the Warhawks 16-6 and held a majority of the possession but couldn't penetrate Casey Merson's goal in a game Seminole eventually won on penalty kicks.

Friday's game unfolded much the same way. Seminole never sniffed the goal in the first half while the Hurricanes saw one opportunity after another go by the wayside.

With time winding down on the full-time clock, PHU's desperation built. And with one well-placed, long-distance shot by Catherine Brinkman, frustration turned to exultation in the Hurricanes' 1-0 win.

"It was nerve-wracking because it seems like it's only against Seminole where we have 25 shots and can't score," PHU defender Ellycia Colon said.

In reaching its first state semifinal since 2007 and eighth overall, PHU (20-2) recorded 20 shots. Seminole had one, which didn't come until 7:30 remained in the game.

"I stressed at halftime that we played very well in the first half last time and the second half we kind of let off because we were getting frustrated," PHU coach John Planamenta said. "But, I've got to hand it to the girls. They kept doing the things we wanted them to do, especially the girls in the back."

In the 63rd minute, PHU forward Queli Ornelas beat Merson to a ball just outside the box, but Ornelas' touch trickled just wide of the open goal.

In the 67th, Ornelas sent a cross into the box that Brinkman missed by inches with her outstretched foot.

Finally, with 6:30 left, Brinkman beat Merson to a ball 35 yards from goal. The Hurricanes' leading goal scorer raced to retrieve her touch, and with Merson (11 saves) out of goal and Seminole defenders closing ground, unleashed a bouncing shot from distance that crossed the goal line.

"I thought a defender might be able to get to it," Brinkman said. "But I put enough pace on it to get it past."

Seminole (15-3-1), which lost in the region finals for the second straight year, attacked the Hurricanes over the final six minutes but couldn't push the equalizer across.

"This is John's best team (at PHU)," Seminole coach Steve Kuplicki said.

"There's no shame in the way we played. We battled, we just didn't get our offensive chances obviously."

Palm Harbor University1

Up next

State soccer semifinals

All games at Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa, Wednesday-Feb. 14. Admission is $8 per session.

Class 5A

Palm Harbor University vs. Satellite, 7:15 Friday

5A region soccer: Palm Harbor U. punches ticket to state 02/06/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 11, 2009 8:10am]
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