PALM HARBOR — Alex Delgado warned his players about starting the second half slowly, about how quickly a match can turn in an opponent's favor and the dangers of falling behind.
So what did Palm Harbor University do? Started the second half slowly. Watched Sarasota Riverview seize control. Fell behind.
Then the Hurricanes played their best 20 minutes of the season, showing why they're the reigning Class 5A state champ in a 4-2 victory in a Class 6A, District 7 semifinal. The 'Canes host Countryside in Friday's final.
After a Riverview goal made it 2-1 in its favor with 28 minutes remaining, PHU (16-5-3) dominated the remainder of the match, getting goals from L.J. Kim and Ben Sweat in a 52-second span (both on assists from sophomore Robert Sennabaum) and another from P.J. McDonald five minutes after that to shell shock the Rams to reach the district final a ninth straight season.
"That (second goal) definitely woke us up," said Sweat, who also assisted on Patrick McDonald's goal to open scoring in the first half.
"Three goals in like 10 minutes …that's definitely good stuff."
Cougars in control
CLEARWATER — Playing its most complete game of the season, host Countryside cruised to a 4-0 victory over Sarasota.
"It was our best game collectively," Cougars coach Dave Sica said. "We came out with a lot of intensity and showed up to play."
In the first half, Jagger Martinez scored what would be the winning goal. Countryside (15-8-1) then sealed it in the first 15 minutes of the second half with two goals from Max Seijo and one from Derya Ekren.
"We were really crashing the box and made the right runs," Sica said.
By winning, the Cougars get an added bonus with the return of Nikolai Hammer, who missed the past six weeks because of a suspension.
"Nikolai will help strengthen us," Sica said. "He's a great addition to get back. All the pieces are starting to come together for us."
Bob Putnam, Times staff writer