ST. PETERSBURG — Two months ago, St. Petersburg was struggling to stay above .500, not even thinking about a conference championship.
But the Green Devils started finding ways to win, going 4-1-1 over their last five games to clinch a spot in Thursday's Pinellas County Athletic Conference girls soccer title game.
St. Petersburg stayed hot, making the most of its limited offensive opportunities to beat Seminole 2-1. It was the Green Devils' first conference title since 2006.
"We played a smart, disciplined game," St. Petersburg coach Rui Farias said. "And when we had our chances to score, we finished."
The turnaround started after the Green Devils' first meeting with the Warhawks, in November. St. Petersburg lost that game 2-1 and was supposed to have a practice during Thanksgiving break. Only two girls showed up. Farias made the players do nothing but run when they met after the break. The following game was an 8-2 loss to Bradenton Manatee.
"Sometimes, you do something like that to get the message across," Farias said.
Since then, the Green Devils have come together.
Thursday, Shaura Washington scored to give St. Petersburg a 1-0 lead at the half.
Seminole, which entered the game scoring four goals per game, suffered a blow when its leading scorer, Gabrielle John, had to leave the game during the first half with concussion-like symptoms.
In the second half, the Warhawks relied on their speed as Olivia Red scored to tie it. The Green Devils responded as Angela Scarmadella scored the winning goal in the final 10 minutes.
"That was special because it was my first game-winning goal since I've been here," said Scarmadella, who moved from New Jersey before the season. "It was big because we wanted to beat Seminole after losing to them earlier this season."
Seminole had chances to score in the second half, but St. Petersburg keeper Theresa-Rose Kudak thwarted most of them, including two diving saves.
"Give credit to St. Petersburg," Warhawks coach Gary Kolb said.
"They were the better team. We'll learn from this."
Bob Putnam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BobbyHomeTeam.