The road to the final four begins tonight for 10 Hillsborough County teams hoping to do what Tampa Prep did last season — win a girls soccer state championship. Durant and East Bay provided some high drama last week, deciding the Class 6A, District 8 title on penalty kicks. Plant has put together an impressive season, leaving many to wonder if this is the season the Panthers can advance past the first round of regionals. Many questions will be answered tonight. All games start at 7.
Alonso (15-4-1) at Durant (11-6-2): This marks the rematch of the season opener for both teams, which Alonso won 2-0 on Nov. 4. The Ravens reached the playoffs after an upset of top-seeded Mitchell in the 6A-7 tournament. They'll face a hot Cougars team that's coming off a big 6A-8 title win over East Bay. Durant, hoping to advance to the region semifinals for the first time since 2005, has gotten stellar play from keeper Meghan Fox.
East Bay (11-3-1) at Sickles (12-4-5): The Indians, who hope to advance to the region semifinals for the first time since 2001, have been phenomenal defensively, pitching five shutouts in their past six games before falling to Durant on penalty kicks for the 6A-7 title. Freshman forward Cici Gonzalez has had a tremendous season, leading Sickles with 30 points.
Bloomingdale (13-3-2) at River Ridge (17-2): The top-seeded Bulls reached the state tournament for the ninth consecutive time despite falling 3-0 to Newsome in the 5A-8 final. Now they'll travel to River Ridge, which edged out Land O'Lakes 1-0 in the 5A-7 tournament. The Royal Knights have outscored opponents 72-10. River Ridge has not advanced out of the quarterfinal round since 2002.
Land O'Lakes (13-10) at Newsome (21-3-1): The Wolves have advanced to the region final in each of the past five seasons. They notched an impressive 3-0 district final win over Bloomingdale thanks to a hat trick by Karina Gutsche. They'll host the Gators, who have won six of their past eight games.
Hillsborough at Palm Harbor University (16-1): The Terriers are making their fifth consecutive state playoff appearance, but need to put together more offense in hopes of advancing. They were outshot 24-5 by Plant in the 5A-10 final, losing 2-0. Hillsborough keeper Amber Davis collected 21 saves. PHU is just three years removed from winning the state title with this being its 12th consecutive playoff berth.
East Lake (13-3) at Plant (18-1-1): Plant has advanced to the state playoffs 12 times, but in 11 previous attempts has never advanced out of the first round. Can that change this season with a roster that has outscored opponents 66-8? East Lake fell to PHU 3-0 in the 5A-10 final.
Cardinal Mooney (9-8-1) at Berkeley Prep (17-3-2): The Buccaneers return to regionals for the first time since reaching the state final four in 2005. They will host tonight's game after winning the 3A-9 tournament 2-0 against St. Petersburg Catholic. The Bucs are led by sophomore Taylor Richardson and her 25 goals and six assists.
Shorecrest Prep (11-6-1) at Tampa Prep (14-3-2): The defending state champion Terrapins begin defense of their title at home against Shorecrest Prep. Last year, they met in the region semifinal with Tampa Prep, winning that one 6-1. Tampa Prep is 3-2-1 since Dec. 20.
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 760-3828.