TAMPA — Palm Harbor University's 2-0 shutout of Miami Lourdes in a Class 6A state semifinal at the University of Tampa's Pepin Stadium wasn't so much a win against an overmatched adversary but a clinic on how to thoroughly confound an opponent.
The Hurricanes (22-0-1) played keep away, controlling the ball in the midfield and holding possession for nearly the entire 80 minutes Friday.
Whenever Lourdes (18-4-3) managed to poke the ball away from a PHU player, two more Hurricanes were waiting, ready to regain possession.
Lourdes rarely advanced the ball past midfield. Hurricanes goalkeeper Nikki Brewer could have stood on her head the entire match and it wouldn't have made a difference in the outcome.
Lourdes never put a shot on Brewer's goal. Not only that, the Bobcats didn't have a shot, period. The amount of time the Bobcats spent in the Hurricanes' goal area could be recorded in seconds.
The Hurricanes are looking for their second straight state championship; PHU won a title in Class 5A last season.
The Hurricanes will play Boca Raton, a 2-0 winner over Winter Springs, in today's championship at 4 p.m.
"Once we came out really strong, you could tell that they were getting panicked and they were getting frustrated with each other," PHU freshman Kelly Phipps said.
"We just kept the pressure up and kept the momentum the whole game."
Any nerves Lourdes felt about possibly advancing to the school's first state final were compounded when Hurricanes senior midfielder Queli Ornelas jumped high above the crowd in front of the Bobcats' goal to head home Catherine Brinkman's corner kick in the game's second minute.
"To come out and score was awesome for us," Brinkman said. "The first few minutes, that's always hard to come back from, when you're losing 1-0 four minutes in. It's kind of a downer."
From that moment, it was sheer domination from the Hurricanes. The only question left to answer was how long it would take PHU to score again and ice the game.
The answer came in the 52nd minute when Phipps rebounded a long strike by Colleen Lynch that Lourdes goalkeeper Carolina Garcia couldn't handle.
"It's a pretty good feeling. It's pretty indescribable. Not many teams do it, coming back to the finals back to back," Brinkman said.
"To say that we even got here is an accomplishment."