PALM HARBOR — Talented young teams often need to face adversity before turning the corner to greatness.
The Palm Harbor University boys soccer team has taken major strides this season and seemed to be on its way to the top seed in the district until it hit a major wall last week.
The Hurricanes, who have just six seniors on the roster, lost to Countryside at the beginning of the week and then tied Riverview to drop to third in the district. The PHU players were clearly disappointed and wanted to use their Hurricane Watch tournament as a confidence booster.
"It set us back a bit, and we wanted to right the ship this week," Hurricanes senior co-captain Ryan Van Schaick said.
Van Schaick was instrumental in helping the Hurricanes beat Mitchell 2-0 on Wednesday night to secure a spot in the final on Friday against the rival Cougars.
"We wanted to use (the tournament) to get more guys on the field, so we know who's going to be able to help us down the stretch," said Van Schaick, who scored the second goal for the Hurricanes. "It wasn't a great week for us last week, and we wanted to work on new things this week to make us better. We had great chemistry tonight and we're going to need it again on Friday."
The Hurricanes (15-2-3) dominated from the start on their home field against the Mustangs (10-9-1), who did not get a shot on goal in the first half. Palm Harbor U. scored in the first five minutes when Charlie Hales assisted on LJ Kim's goal.
Van Schaick scored just minutes later when Jesse Caron neatly passed the ball from the left side of the penalty box to the senior midfielder, who placed it past Mitchell keeper Brian Hoxie.
"It's a work in progress for us this season," Mitchell coach Oscar Ubillus said. "We lost 12 seniors from last year's squad, and we only have four this season. We're playing against tough competition to help the younger players grow quickly."
Mitchell will play St. Petersburg in the consolation final at 6 p.m. before the final between PHU and Countryside.