TAMPA — Palm Harbor University sophomore keeper Morgan Lorenti watched the first half from the bench, and probably figured when she got her turn in the second half, it would be a pretty easy night.
After all, her Hurricanes teammates had dominated in the first half, scored first, and starting keeper Rachel Taylor could have finished her homework back there as PHU was in control.
But once Lorenti stepped into the net, business picked up.
Stopping two great chances by Wharton in the second half, Lorenti helped preserve PHU's slight advantage as the Hurricanes notched a 1-0 win in a Class 6A region semifinal Tuesday night.
"She saved us," said forward Kelly Phipps.
PHU, 20-2 and the defending Class 6A champ (and 5A champ the year before that) will host the region championship Friday against Vero Beach, which knocked off previously unbeaten Apopka 2-1.
The Hurricanes snapped Wharton's 12-match win streak and won their 12th straight playoff game and 29th in 33 tries under coach John Planamenta.
Lorenti had already saved two good chances by Wharton (14-10-1) when with 17 minutes remaining Sarah Doutt-Nesmith struck a shot from about 30 yards out on the wing. The ball sailed and surprised Lorenti, who recovered to deflect the perfectly placed shot off the crossbar.
That save was enough to make Alexis Mouton's goal stand up.
Like Wharton, PHU missed a couple of good opportunities, including one series where Alyssa Skryd and Mouton sandwiched point-blank shots that Wharton keeper Heather Montgomery stopped around a shot by Phipps that was blocked by a defender.
But with less than seven minutes remaining, Montgomery came way out to try to stop Phipps on the wing, and took the right angle and blocked the shot. It deflected almost straight up, however, and Phipps was able to center it to Mouton, the ball bouncing once before she volleyed it into the open net.
"I just saw the open space and tried to make sure it was on frame," Mouton said.