During its second-half surge this season, St. Petersburg's girls soccer team went 5-1-1, including a victory in last week's conference championship game.
The only loss in that span came against Sarasota Riverview, which prevented the Green Devils from claiming the top seed in the Class 5A, District 8 tournament.
On Wednesday, St. Petersburg got its rematch with the Rams. This time, the Green Devils prevailed 4-2 in the district semifinals.
St. Petersburg (10-3-2) will travel to play top-seed Bradenton Manatee in Friday's championship game at 7 p.m. The Hurricanes beat Pinellas Park 8-0 in the other semifinal, which ended with 21 minutes left in the second half because of the mercy rule.
"The girls were really looking forward to this game against Riverview," Green Devils coach Rui Farias said. "We lost 1-0 the first we played, and the girls felt like we should have won that one."
The offense came through as Hannah Deson and Shaura Washington each scored within the first 30 minutes, and Jenny Bennett added a goal off a free kick from 25 yards to give St. Petersburg a 3-0 lead.
The Rams chipped away at the deficit with a goal late in the first half and another early in the second to cut it to 3-2.
Riverview did not get any closer.
Chloe Beaver scored on a header off a corner kick by Washington to put St. Petersburg up 4-2. The Rams had a goal waved off because of goalie interference, prompting one of their coaches to kick a nearby trash can in disgust.
"The last two games are probably the best I've seen this team play in years," Farias said. "I could see them getting better at the midpoint of the season, and there's been such determination lately."
The next challenge comes against Manatee. The Green Devils tied in the first meeting and lost 8-2 in the rematch, a rout that ignited St. Petersburg's recent turnaround.
"The girls want this one against Manatee, too," Farias said.
2A-9: AHN, TP ride lone goals
TAMPA — The Class 2A, District 9 semifinal had barely begun when Lindsay Boos sent a cross to Julia Lester, who slipped it past the Berkeley Prep goalkeeper in the third minute to put Academy of the Holy Names on top.
It was the only goal the Jaguars mustered for the next 76 minutes. Holy Names only had a few viable chances the rest of the way, so the Jaguars' challenge then was to make sure one goal would be enough. That duty largely fell to freshman goalkeeper Kendall Catone.
Though Berkeley Prep had its chances in the second half, Catone turned in four saves to put the Jaguars (15-1) in Friday's district final with a 1-0 win. Holy Names will face Tampa Prep (9-8-1), a 1-0 winner over Clearwater Central Catholic in two overtimes.
During a five-minute span in the second half, Berkeley Prep (6-11-3) peppered the goal, forcing Catone to make back-to-back diving saves. The Bucs kept the ball on Holy Names' side of the field for most of the final 40 minutes.
"It's rough to watch," Catone said about the Bucs' late control. "But we have an amazing defense. I'm never worried with them."
In the other semifinal, Tampa Prep and CCC fought for 80 minutes of regulation, but neither team had anything to show for it.
Tampa Prep coach Cindy Schofield said she was planning for penalty kicks as the second of two 10-minute overtimes was nearing a close. But with less than three minutes left, Terrapins forward Darla Harrison received the ball on the left side of the box. She saw the CCC goalie at the near post, so she aimed for the far side. And in the 98th minute, the stalemate finally ended.
"Usually when teams have that many chances and they don't score, they don't win," Schofield said. "Thankfully we were not on that side of the ball tonight."
Times staff writer Kelly Parsons contributed to this report.