TAMPA — One late sequence in its Class 5A state semifinal summed up Palm Harbor University's effort in a 3-0 win over Satellite.
Ahead by three goals, PHU junior forward Catherine Brinkman wanted more. The Hurricanes had built a comfortable lead following Heather Mariscal's second-half score, and the Scorpions were unable to maintain possession for any length of time.
Yet the Hurricanes weren't content. With 15 minutes to go, Brinkman strained, teeth gritted in determination, to reach a loose ball in between three Satellite defenders. Her first touch sent the ball forward, and another touch from a Satellite player sent the ball violently back into her face.
Brinkman staggered for a split second, shrugged off the blow and immediately scrambled to chase and win the ball again, the sting of her face the farthest thing from her mind.
As the final minutes ticked off the clock at UT's Pepin Stadium, it became obvious that the Hurricanes' mission Friday wasn't merely to beat Satellite. They wanted to bury the Scorpions (21-5-1) into the playing surface.
Brinkman and company provided the shovels.
"That's what they've been doing the past few games," said PHU coach John Planamenta, who has guided the Hurricanes now to four title games in his six seasons at the school. "They know how close they are, and they need that work ethic. …That's what I've been harping on: high pressure and not letting (Satellite) have any momentum. That kind of shows it toward the end of the game, you've got girls still working as hard as they can."
Brinkman reached with her right foot to chip a shot over Satellite goalkeeper Ellie Harrington and inside the far post with 17:15 remaining in the first half to put PHU (21-2) ahead 1-0. The goal was No. 32 on the season for Brinkman.
"She's a natural striker. She missed one just before that on a breakaway and right away I said 'get your head up because you're going to have another chance,' " Planamenta said. "And sure enough, boom, not even two minutes later. It's a great testament to her to keep the pressure on."
With seven seconds on the first-half clock and PHU controlling possession, the 'Canes went ahead 2-0 on Cina Salemi's free kick from just outside the box.
"That one hurt the most," Satellite coach Ryan Weldon said. "Because if we go in (to halftime) 1-0, we've got a really good chance of coming back. But when you take that dagger at the end, it's tough."
Mariscal's goal eight minutes into the second half solidified the Hurricanes' spot in the state final opposite George Jenkins, a 3-0 winner over Fleming Island. This marks the sixth time the Hurricanes will appear in the championship game.
"We were ready tonight," Brinkman said. "I don't think we could have played any better."