Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

5A state soccer: Palm Harbor U. defense delivers spot in final

TAMPA — Palm Harbor University coach Alex Delgado was a junior on the Hurricanes' first state championship squad in 2002.

Delgado, who was a sweeper, understands how valuable a lockdown defense can be to a team's title hopes. It's a characteristic the 2008-09 Hurricanes have adopted during their recent playoff run. Entering Friday's Class 5A semifinal against Monarch, PHU had yet to allow a goal to three regional opponents: Leto, Jesuit, Seminole.

Now, the Hurricanes can add Monarch to that list.

Behind a tenacious defense that kept possession from Monarch leading scorer Felipe Nascimento and allowed the Knights only three shots on goal, PHU prevailed 2-0 to advance to the school's fourth state championship.

The Hurricanes (23-4-4), who won state titles in 2002 and 2006, hope to capture their third championship tonight at 7:30 against Freedom.

"That was a solid performance defensively," said PHU's Sam Venker, who anchors the Hurricanes' back line. "…We just try to defend first as a whole team — everyone defends. Then late in the game as our fitness knocks in, the fitness we do early in the season helps a lot to be able to get that late goal."

Both teams struggled to mount any semblance of offense in the first 60 minutes, but after the second water break, PHU created the better scoring opportunities and capitalized.

In the 67th minute, Ben Sweat received a pass in the middle of the box from P.J. McDonald. With a defender on his back, Sweat wheeled left and drilled a left-footed shot toward the opposite post past Monarch goalkeeper Diego Cardoso. Sweat's blast was PHU's first shot on goal of the game.

"We were getting closer and closer and closer as the clock kept winding," Delgado said. "I told the guys at the water break 'just keep going, 19 more minutes.' …Ben finally calmed himself down in the box and got it on goal. What a great finish."

Until Sweat's goal, the 13th of the season for the junior, it appeared neither side would penetrate. PHU and Monarch (18-6-2) had five shots on goal combined.

"It was definitely getting a little nerve-wracking there," Delgado admitted. "…We've been working on putting teams away, and it just seemed for a little bit, for about a couple minutes there that maybe it wasn't going to be our night, we weren't going to get that one opportunity."

Six minutes after going ahead 1-0, PHU forward Matthew Tobin stole an errant pass in Monarch territory and sent a cross into the box to the feet of Andrew Smith, who was knocked down by Cardoso after gaining possession.

The Hurricanes were awarded a penalty kick, which Tobin calmly converted to give PHU an insurmountable 2-0 lead.

"The boys definitely took the moment and made it theirs," Delgado said. "…I think that's what it came down to in the end was we executed in crunch time, which we've been doing for literally the last month."

Freedom 1, Niceville 0: Freshman midfielder Evan Kruk scored the biggest goal in school history, firing in the winner in the 61st minute. "It's unimaginable," Kruk said. "It's hard to describe being a freshman and scoring in a semifinals of states."

The Patriots (17-2-5) clamped down on Niceville (24-2-3), which was limited to five shots.

Class 3A

Berkeley Prep 3, Pine Crest 0: Berkeley Prep will play for its first title since 2004 after topping Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest. The Bucs (24-2) broke through in the 10th minute when midfielder Eri Jacobs fed forward J.D. Post, who blasted a quick shot past Panthers keeper Wyatt Zeller. T.J. Roehn and Jacobs scored the other goals.

Staff writer Izzy Gould contributed to this report.

Battle for bragging rights?

Freedom and Palm Harbor U. meet today in a battle of bay area powers. It's not the first time Hillsborough and Pinellas county teams have met in a soccer final. Pinellas holds a 5-2 edge.

Boys soccer

1982: Seminole 2, Leto 1

1989: Clearwater Central Catholic 4, Tampa Catholic 1

1996: CCC 1, Jesuit 0

1998: Jesuit 4, Osceola 1

1999: Jesuit 5, Osceola 2

Girls soccer

1997: CCC 4, TC 1

2006: PHU 2, Bloomingdale 0

Palm Harbor University2
Monarch0

5A state soccer: Palm Harbor U. defense delivers spot in final 02/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 20, 2009 11:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021

    Bucs

    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  2. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Derek Norris strikes out with the bases loaded as the Rays blow a golden opportunity in the seventh inning.
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb made mistakes on back-to-back pitches to the first two Angels hitters Tuesday, allowing homers to Cameron Maybin and Mike Trout, but otherwise gave the Rays another solid outing, working into the eighth and scattering seven hits.

  4. Rays journal: Brad Miller won't return from DL when eligible

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — 2B Brad Miller (left abdominal strain) will not return from the 10-day disabled list Friday as he hoped. While he took ground balls Tuesday, he has yet to resume running.

    Rays second baseman Brad Miller, left, with infielder Tim Beckham, says he’s letting his left abdominal strain “cool down” before testing it by running.
  5. USF baseball rallies to beat Tulane in AAC tournament opener

    College

    CLEARWATER — With Tulane runners on first and second and two out in the top of the ninth inning Tuesday, USF's dugout watched as burly American Athletic Conference co-player of the year Hunter Williams' fly to left went deep.

    USF outfielder Chris Chatfield is congratulated by third-base coach Chris Cates after hitting a three-run homer in the third inning, tying the score at 3.