PALM HARBOR — If there is one stat that sums up why Palm Harbor University (21-0-1) has been so successful this season, advancing to the state semifinals a second year in a row, it is this:
In 22 games, the Hurricanes have given up four goals.
That averages out to 0.18 goals per game or, put another way, one goal about every five games, a mind-boggling number considering the quality teams that dot the Hurricanes' schedule, a lineup that includes Class 5A state semifinalist Seminole and playoff teams Countryside (three times), East Lake (twice), Clearwater Central Catholic, Bloomingdale, Plant and Apopka.
Of the four teams — Seminole, Countryside, St. Petersburg and Apopka — able to penetrate the brick wall the Hurricanes constructed around their goal, none did it more than once. The Hurricanes have never been scored on twice this season.
"I personally have never had a team with this few goals against in a season," PHU coach John Planamenta said. "It's pretty impressive when you think about it with some of the teams we've played. It's a testament to the girls."
Here's another interesting tidbit: The Hurricanes have trailed only once, in their last game at Apopka in the region final. A miscommunication in the back led to a fluke goal in the 46th minute that put Apopka up 1-0.
"It wasn't pretty at all," Planamenta said. "The girls just kind of looked around like, 'Did that really go in?' "
Until that point, the Hurricanes had never faced a deficit.
"All of us were a little stressed out and nervous about what was going to happen," senior defender Colleen Lynch said. "When I kept glancing at the clock, it seemed like time was going down really fast."
Before the goal allowed against Apopka, the 'Canes hadn't been scored on in 727 minutes of play dating to a 4-1 win vs. Countryside in the Hurricane Watch tourney Dec. 18.
The Hurricanes are experienced on defense with seniors Lynch, Cina Salemi and Shannon Walisch manning the back line and senior Nikki Brewer in goal. When Salemi injured her ankle in the PCAC Challenge against Osceola, Lombard, another senior who plays forward for her club team, plugged the gap by moving into Salemi's sweeper position.
Salemi was inserted midway through the Apopka game and could start today against Miami Lourdes in a 6A state semifinal at the University of Tampa.
"I think everyone's going to come with the mindset (today) that no matter what we're going to give it our all," said Lombard, who missed last year's state title run when she tore her ACL before the season. "These are possibly our last two games."