PALM HARBOR — Palm Harbor University girls soccer is all about defense. The Hurricanes have allowed just six goals all season against some of the toughest competition in the state.
Friday's Class 5A, District 7 final was supposed to provide a test, as Plant's high-octane offense scored at least three goals in its previous seven games.
PHU didn't let the Panthers near the goal often, allowing nine shots — five on goal. But the Hurricanes offense stole some of the spotlight with five goals from different players in a 5-0 victory.
PHU (14-0-5), which secured its 17th straight playoff appearance with Thursday's semifinal victory over rival East Lake, won its 11th district title in 12 seasons and will host St. Petersburg on Thursday in the region quarterfinals.
"We've been there defensively all year," Hurricanes coach John Planamenta said. "But now the offense is starting to come around. We've created chances all season. Now we're finding ways to finish."
The lack of offense contributed to the five ties and dropped PHU to the No. 3 seed. Since the district tournament started, the Hurricanes have found ways to score 12 goals in the past three games.
Most of the scoring has been provided by Alexis Mouton, an Alabama recruit who had six of PHU's seven goals in the tournament before the final.
Friday, the scoring was distributed evenly. Alyssa Skryd started it with a goal in the 17th minute. Marisa Ruland and Shalisa Crowell also scored in the first half to give the Hurricanes a 3-0 lead.
In the second, Mouton had her seventh goal of the tournament off a high-arcing shot from 30 yards that sailed just past the keeper's arm. Aniko Zabo rounded out the scoring with a goal midway through the second half.
"We've just gained a lot of confidence on offense the last few games," Skryd said. "We wanted to come out strong and get a big lead. But even though we were ahead 3-0 at the half and knowing the kind of defense we have, we didn't let up."
5A-8: Green Devils strike out vs. top seed again
Last month St. Petersburg lost by six goals to Bradenton Manatee. That outcome was supposed to be an aberration considering the Green Devils went through a punishing practice the day before and were tired.
Since then, St. Petersburg has gone 6-1-1, including a win over Sarasota Riverview that set up a rematch with Manatee in the Class 5A, District 8 championship game.
The Green Devils did not fare much better against the top-seeded Hurricanes, losing 5-0.
Manatee has been dominant in district play and scored a combined 13 goals in the semifinals and final.
St. Petersburg will travel to play Palm Harbor University in the region quarterfinals.