Friday, February 23, 2018
Prep Soccer

Palm Harbor University soccer takes on tough schedule

EAST LAKE — There is nothing anyone can say to make Palm Harbor University’s boys soccer team feel better about last season.

It is no use noting that the Hurricanes went 17-3, won their third consecutive district title and were ranked eighth overall in the state by MaxPreps.

PHU lost in the region semifinals at Lakewood Ranch 4-3. The winning goal came late in the second half in a tight game full of ebbs and flows.

"It was tough for all of us, especially the seniors who were here last season," junior forward Liam Griffin said.

The painful memories of a game that got away served as a powerful motivator this season. The players are reminded of it — in school, in practices and in games.

"The goal is to get to back (to the region semifinals) against Lakewood Ranch and beat them," Hurricanes senior midfielder Donald Patterson said. "Some of the seniors that felt that loss are still around, one is an assistant coach. They remind us all the time, even at practice that is the goal."

Though it was tough to lose, the players took some solace in knowing they have a future together. Seven starters return, giving PHU much-needed experience.

"We’re basically running the same formations as last year and that’s a big thing," Patterson said. "We have a lot of chemistry, too."

During the offseason, the players wedded the others to their sense of purpose.

Hurricanes coach Wipoj Huse knew what they wanted, too.

"They know how close we were last year," Huse said.

For 15 years, PHU has been a soccer powerhouse, winning three state titles and appearing in two other championship games. But the Hurricanes have not been in a title game since 2010.

There was always a team that was too experienced, too talented, too much to overcome in the postseason. The latest obstacle has been Lakewood Ranch.

The roster is built for a championship run with 13 players who are juniors or seniors.

"It’s been too long for Palm Harbor not have a state title," Huse said. "This year and next year we have the players to do that."

Because last season’s playoff appearance was short on games and long on letdowns, Huse wanted to make sure his players had a postseason-type experience that lasted a little longer than two games.

Try the entire season.

PHU has been sure to mark its calendar. Playoff-caliber teams from a year ago are on tap early.

And pretty much every game.

The schedule, which Huse fashioned to provide no automatic victories, is grueling. The Hurricanes’ first six games are all against teams that either made the playoffs last season or advanced to the semifinals of their district tournament.

"Our schedule is brutal," Huse said.

Huse made things tough by design because by the end of the season, his players will be ready for anything.

So far, PHU has navigated through this stretch without any setbacks. Entering the week, the Hurricanes were 4-0.

Huse reminded his players after Monday’s 2-1 victory over previously unbeaten East Lake that it does not get any easier.

"No light schedule," Huse said while his players huddled around him. "This is like a playoff run. First round, second round. Now we get to the championship. Take it that way. Test yourselves now."

These are just minor tests.

The real one comes in February.

"We want to get to state but we know we’ll probably have to face Lakewood Ranch again and that’s a huge obstacle for us," Patterson said. "These games prepare us for that."

Comments

Boys soccer: Lucas Gobea’s hat trick propels Jesuit

TAMPA — With an eye on leading his team deep into the playoffs this season, Jesuit sophomore and top scorer Lucas Gobea was determined to get things going when his first shot on goal was deflected off the crossbar by Osceola goalie Gabe Kraja. When h...
Updated one month ago

Boys soccer: Shorecrest recaptures missing district title

LARGO — After a disappointing early exit from the Class A, District 6 tournament last season, Shorecrest Prep’s mission Saturday night was twofold — to climb its way back to the summit while defeating the team that took its place, St. Petersburg Cath...
Updated one month ago

Boys soccer: Shrader’s goal off own rebound gives Newsome 5A-6 title

DOVER — With overtime looming, Spencer Shrader took matters into his own hands Friday night.The senior striker scored on a rebound of his own shot with 32 seconds remaining to lift Newsome to a 2-1 victory over Plant City in the Class 5A, District 6 ...
Updated one month ago

Boys soccer: Clearwater wins first district title since 2012

TARPON SPRINGS — For Clearwater, redemption came at the most opportune moment.The Cinderella sixth-seeded Tornadoes took their third road trip of the Class 4A, District 10 district tourney and emerged as champions, defeating host and top seed East La...
Updated one month ago

Boys soccer: Jesuit shuts out Jefferson for 3A-9 crown

TAMPA — This has been a season of dominance for nationally-ranked Jesuit and so there was every reason for the team to celebrate their 4-0 victory over Jefferson in Friday’s Class 3A, District 9 boys soccer championship.While Jesuit players stormed ...
Updated one month ago

Boys soccer: Boca Ciega knocks off Osceola for district title

LARGO — Vedad Delic capitalized on Boca Ciega’s only scoring chance in the second half as the Pirates defeated Osceola 1-0 on Friday in the Class 3A, District 10 championship game.Boca Ciega (16-5) avenged a 2-1 lost to Osceola in the regular season....
Updated one month ago

Boys soccer: Palm Harbor digs deep to win 5A-7 title

WESLEY CHAPEL — When your team is ranked first in Florida and in the top 10 nationally, it usually doesn’t get rattled by being down in a boys soccer game.So even though Palm Harbor University trailed by two goals at the half and found itself down a ...
Updated one month ago

Boys soccer: Nature Coast again too much for Pasco in district final

WEEKI WACHEE — Despite winning the Class 3A, District 7 title last season, Nature Coast entered Friday night’s championship final as the underdog against Pasco. That didn’t stop the Sharks from going into the contest with confidence, and that attitud...
Updated one month ago

Boys soccer: River Ridge ends drought against Sunlake

NEW PORT RICHEY — 86 months, 17 days. That’s the period of time its been since River Ridge had defeated Sunlake in boys soccer. The Seahawks have always managed to get the better of the Royal Knights when it came down to regular season matches and di...
Updated one month ago

Boys soccer: Sickles edges out Mitchell for district title

TAMPA — From the start of Friday night’s Class 4A, District 8 boys soccer final to the end, Sickles slammed down the accelerator on visiting Mitchell."We knew we were going to have to give it everything we had," Sickles junior John Webb said, "becaus...
Updated one month ago