PALM HARBOR — One by one, Bloomingdale coach Sue Peet consoled her disconsolate players as they sat in tears on the bench.
For 85 minutes, the Bulls, presented with the monumental task of having to defeat defending Class 5A state champion and undefeated Palm Harbor University on the Hurricanes' homefield, were not only up for the challenge, they embraced it.
They hustled to beat the 'Canes to loose balls. They constructed a barricade around goalkeeper Christine Darnell.
But with one well-placed long ball to one of the area's most dangerous strikers, it all went for naught in a 1-0 overtime loss to PHU in the region quarterfinals.
"If (PHU's) one of the best teams in the state, we're right there with them," Peet said in between hugs. "I'm very, very proud of my team tonight."
Indeed, Bloomingdale players had every reason to hold their heads high. For the first 25 minutes, the Bulls kept PHU on its heels with well-placed passes that prevented the Hurricanes (19-0-1) from gaining possession.
Bloomingdale (14-6-2) had chances early, its best coming when senior Kara Buono nearly tracked down a long pass in the box but was beaten to the ball by PHU goalkeeper Nikki Brewer by a fraction of a second.
In the second half, the Hurricanes began to assert themselves. They had two point-blank opportunities — one sailed over the crossbar, the other was blocked by Darnell and trickled toward goal before hitting the post — and outshot the Bulls 6-0.
Bloomingdale was able to extend the game into overtime, but Colleen Lynch and Catherine Brinkman combined to halt the Bulls' upset hopes. Lynch switched the field with a 40-yard pass that hit Brinkman in stride streaking down the right side of the field toward goal. With no one but Darnell to beat, Brinkman calmly struck a shot toward the far post.
"I thought we gave them a good game," Peet said. "They know we were here."