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East Lake, PHU play to tie, advance to Puma Challenge semis

CLEARWATER — Losing is not an option for East Lake and Palm Harbor University, especially when the bitter neighborhood rivals square off.

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And for the second team this season, neither team tasted defeat as the Eagles and Hurricanes played to a scoreless draw Tuesday to conclude group play at the Puma Challenge. A week ago, East Lake and PHU tied 1-1.

"It's two teams that just know each other really well," East Lake coach Sergei Stopek said.

PHU (6-0-2) had the bulk of the scoring opportunities in the first half but couldn't convert. East Lake (4-0-3) was the aggressor in the second half but found goalkeeper Joshua Paul impossible to crack.

"I thought both teams played great," PHU coach Alex Delgado said. "I don't think either team wants to give one an edge."

By virtue of its 2-0 win over Seminole earlier in the day, PHU had already clinched a spot in the semifinals before its match against East Lake. The Eagles, who won their morning game 2-0 over River Ridge, still had work to do to move forward.

"We had more to lose than they did because they had already advanced," Stopek said. "We were in a position where a loss could have taken us out of the tournament."

PHU finishes group play as the Flight A winner and will take on Countryside today at 10 a.m. in one semifinal. East Lake, the Flight A runnerup, plays Flight B winner Winter Park at noon. The semifinal winners will compete at 6 p.m. for the championship.

Countryside 4, Pinellas Park 0: Countryside maintained possession for most of its match with Pinellas Park. The Cougars kept the ball in the Patriots' half of the field and peppered their goal with shot after shot. Countryside had everything going its way yet for the first 55 minutes couldn't find a way to score. Enter substitute Blaise Elkes, who knocked home a goal one minute after coming off the bench in the second half. Greg Crowell had two second-half goals and Andrew Hitt added the fourth score. "It's the story of our year so far," Countryside coach David Sica said. "We haven't been able to finish all year. We're giving up less than a goal a game, but it doesn't matter if you can't score." Countryside (2-2-2), which got a goal from Crowell to tie Winter Park 1-1 earlier in the day, finished as runnerup in Flight B.

Land O'Lakes 8, Pinellas Park 1: Pinellas Park finished the tournament 0-3 after losing to Land O'Lakes and Countryside on the final day of group play. Josh Annon scored the Patriots' lone goal of the tournament.

Seminole 2, River Ridge 1: Despite winning its final game of the tournament, Seminole failed to qualify for the semifinals. The Warhawks finished with four points, one behind East Lake for the Flight A runnerup spot.

Winter Park 2, Land O'Lakes 1: Winter Park took a 2-0 lead and held on to defeat the Gators. The win secured first place in Flight B for the Wildcats. The Land O'Lakes loss coupled with Countryside's defeat of Pinellas Park bounced the Gators.

East Lake, PHU play to tie, advance to Puma Challenge semis 11/26/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 12:40am]
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