EAST LAKE — Countryside entered the 2009-10 season with promise, especially after the Cougars knocked off defending Class 5A state champion Palm Harbor University in the preseason.
Eager to prove that win wasn't a fluke, Countryside looked to its matchup with East Lake on Thursday to show how much it had improved since a disappointing season in 2008-09.
And after spotting East Lake a 2-0 advantage, Countryside rallied for four goals and goalkeeper Kim Cohn made one incredible save after another in the second half in an impressive 4-3 victory for the Cougars.
"I'm excited about this year," Countryside coach Rob Saltz said. "My girls got confidence from that (PHU) victory. People are talking so it makes them feel good."
East Lake (0-1) opened up a 2-0 advantage after Tatiana Perez blasted a shot from 25 yards into the upper left corner of the goal in the game's 15th minute, then converted a penalty kick two minutes later.
Countryside's Thea Linkfield slid a pass to a wide open Alyssa Rosati for the Cougars' first goal with 20 minutes remaining in the first half. The Cougars tied the game four minutes later when Tanya Bawkins lofted a shot into the upper right corner.
The Cougars (2-0) took a 3-2 advantage into halftime.
Countryside made it 4-2 early in the second half after Bawkins' free kick from 40 yards away was too high for East Lake goalkeeper Alicia Aldridge to reach.
That's when the Cougars turned to Cohn. The senior keeper thwarted one-on-one attempts on two occasions and punched a sure goal over the crossbar with a last-ditch flick of her hand. Perez recorded a hat trick in the 60th minute when she beat Cohn to a loose ball and scored on the empty net, but Cohn had one more great save in her, diving to her right to block a shot in the closing minutes.