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Cotey: There's no down time for PHU girls soccer

Palm Harbor University’s Ellycia Colon, left, says she’s not nervous but excited by the chance to play for another state title.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR | Times

Palm Harbor University’s Ellycia Colon, left, says she’s not nervous but excited by the chance to play for another state title.

PALM HARBOR — On the eve of playing in another state semifinal, Palm Harbor University girls soccer coach John Planamenta is trying to explain his program's success, a crazy 117-9-2 record and five final four appearances in six seasons.

Then you hear it.

Clank. Clank. Clankclankclank.

The peacefulness of a perfectly placid afternoon is broken by the sound of sneaker meeting aluminum bleacher.

Planamenta looks over and smiles as Ellycia Colon, head down and well after practice has ended, runs up and down the stadium bleachers.

You want your explanation? Well, you're looking at it.

Clank. Clank. Clankclankclank.

Friday at Pepin Stadium in Tampa, PHU will be bidding to win a fourth state championship and a trophy to sit next to the ones from 1999, 2000 and 2006.

Seminole coach Steve Kuplicki thinks this might be Planamenta's best team. Catherine Brinkman and Queli Ornelas have emerged as a potent 1-2 postseason punch up front, freshman Paige Lombard is a rising star, and the defensive backfield of Colon, Shannon Walisch, Cina Salemi and keeper Christina Brewer is stone.

As usual, it will take a perfect game to get past the toughest team in Class 5A, which this year is Satellite Beach Satellite.

Other years, when Satellite doesn't beat them in the region final, it is St. Thomas Aquinas.

"But it's always one of those two,'' says Planamenta.

It's fair to lump PHU in with them, for now, though the Hurricanes could laminate that soccer dynasty membership card with another title.

Since 2004, when redistricting put them all in the same class, the trio of schools have accounted for four of the five state championships.

Combined, they are 60-12 in the postseason, and 10 of those 12 losses have come against each other.

PHU is 1-3 against the other two in the state semifinals, beating Aquinas for its 2006 title but being outscored 8-0 in the losses.

"It's always a tough road,'' Planamenta said.

Clank. Clank. Clankclankclankclank.

This is why Colon runs. Because she wants to.

Because she needs to.

Because she now has her assignment: stopping Satellite Beach standout Tishia Jewell, who has 43 goals this season.

"I haven't been able to sleep for two days waiting to find out who I'd be marking,'' Colon said. "I'll probably have a little trouble getting to sleep tonight thinking about it now.''

Colon may be the best Planamenta has had in that crucial role of stopper, and he always has a good one.

She is fast, furious, feisty.

"Physical,'' she adds, "very physical.''

This, she says, makes up for anything she gives up in footwork and skill. She is still honing those skills.

She isn't really worried about Jewell. She has, after all, covered East Lake's Leah Fisher five times this season, and Fisher runs like the wind.

Still, she is excited. She has played a little against Jewell in club ball, but knows she will have only a few seconds to gauge her adversary Friday.

That's all you get.

"All it takes is one move that you're not ready for, and you give up that one goal, and in soccer one goal is huge,'' Colon says. "I'm not really nervous. But I am excited.''

Jewell will get her touches. She'll run all night, looking for an opening, a pass, a moment.

And Colon will run right with her.

She's already started.

Clank. Clank. Clankclankclank.

John C. Cotey can be reached at johncotey@gmail.com.

Today's state soccer tournament games

All games at Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa. Admission is $8 per session.

Class 4A: Gulf Breeze vs. Ponte Vedra, noon

Class 4A: Cypress Lake vs. Cardinal Gibbons, 2:15

Class 2A: final, 5

Class 6A: final, 7:30

Full schedule, 8C

FAST FACTS

State soccer tournament

All games at Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa. Admission is $8 per session.

Wednesday's results

Class 2A:

St. John's Country Day 4, King's Academy 0

Class 2A:

Delray Beach American Heritage 1, Tampa Prep 1 (American Heritage wins 4-2 in PK)

Class 6A:

Melbourne 3, Oviedo 2

Class 6A:

Douglas 2, Miami Springs 0

Today's games

Class 4A: Gulf Breeze

vs. Ponte Vedra, noon

Class 4A: Cypress Lake vs. Cardinal Gibbons, 2:15

Class 2A: final, 5

Class 6A: final, 7:30

Friday's games

Class 3A: Bolles vs. Trinity Catholic, 2:15

Class 3A: St. Andrew's vs. Plantation American Heritage, noon

Class 5A: Fleming Island vs. George Jenkins, 5

Class 5A: PHU vs. Satellite, 7:15

Saturday's games

Class 5A: final, 5

Class 4A: final, 2:30

Class 3A: final, noon

On the Web

If you can't make Friday's PHU game, we've got you covered. We'll blog the game live — and if you've got a question, chime on in — at blogs.tampabay.com/preps/

Cotey: There's no down time for PHU girls soccer 02/11/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 11, 2009 10:33pm]
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