Plant (21-1-1) at Palm Harbor University (19-0-1)
The Panthers are arguably Hillsborough County's top team, and the Hurricanes can easily claim the same title in Pinellas. One state contender's season will end tonight. Neither team was its best in the quarters, needing overtime to advance. Plant middle back Amy Werdine, one of the top defenders in the county, scored on a header to give the Panthers the win over Countryside. The pressure here lies with the Hurricanes, who are aiming for a 6A state title after winning the 5A crown last season. PHU, which was outplayed early by Bloomingdale, needed a goal from Catherine Brinkman in the sixth minute of overtime. The team that rebounds from a so-so opening round advances.
Winner faces: Apopka or Palm Bay Bayside
Venice (15-5-3) at Freedom (13-3-4)
The Patriots are in the region tournament for the first time in five years and are making the most of it. Their 5-0 win over Manatee was easy thanks to two-goal games by Ashni Deschenes and Ali Diioia. But Venice, an established program with lots of postseason experience, will present a much different challenge. This year's Indians are young, and Freedom's top priority will be stopping Venice sophomore midfielder Kelly White, who scored three goals in the Indians' 4-1 quarterfinal win over Hillsborough.
Winner faces: Seminole or East Lake
East Bay (13-4-2) at Newsome (16-3-4)
Few teams might be playing better than Newsome right now. Wolves sophomore forward Liz Haumschild had one goal and three assists in a 7-0 quarterfinal win over Ocala Forest. Now, they play a familiar foe in district rival East Bay. Newsome beat East Bay 3-0 for the district title just 10 days ago (the teams tied in their other meeting this season). Karina Gutsche, who scored a pair of goals against Forest, has a season-high 17. East Bay's Brittany Cox is one of the county's top scorers (20 goals, 11 assists), but the Indians haven't filled the net recently. East Bay has scored just two goals in its past three games and escaped with a surprisingly close 1-0 win over Springstead in the quarterfinals.
Winner faces: Winter Haven or Lakeland George Jenkins
Lakewood Ranch (17-0-2) at Steinbrenner (18-0-2)
This region semifinal between unbeatens features plenty of offensive firepower. The Warriors have scored 114 goals this season and the Mustangs have scored 89. Steinbrenner junior Cici Gonzalez is one of the county's most dynamic players (29 goals, 25 assists), but she has plenty of help offensively — three others have at least 15 goals. The difference might be defense. Steinbrenner has 14 shutouts in 20 games. Lakewood Ranch dismantled Robinson 9-1 in the quarters. The Mustangs, district champ in six of the past seven years, have shut out their opponents in six of their past seven games.
Winner faces: Cape Coral Ida Baker or Naples Barron Collier
Clearwater Central Catholic (13-3-5) at Berkeley Prep (18-4-2)
Berkeley Prep is the county's hottest team. The Bucs have won nine straight and are 17-1-1 in their past 19 games. They dispatched Frostproof 8-0 in a mercy-rule quarterfinal game. Now they face district rival CCC for a third time. Berkeley won both meetings — and hasn't allowed a Marauders goal — including a 1-0 district tournament title game win. Bucs forward Sam Newhaller has four goals in three games, including the only goal in the last meeting. Berkeley will be without keeper Bryane Heaberlin (U.S. U-17 camp), so this will be backup Morgan Orobello's first true postseason test. The Marauders are confident coming off a 9-1 win over Lakeland McKeel. Kaitlin Parker scored three goals and Lindsey Cooper added a pair for CCC.
Winner faces: Sarasota Cardinal Mooney or Fort Myers Bishop Verot
Bradenton St. Stephen's (18-3) at Tampa Prep (15-5-4)
The Terrapins, seeking their third state tournament berth in as many years, have the county's top scorer in net-filling forward Colby Maffei, who has 40 goals on the season and 10 in her past three games. She scored all three goals in Tampa Prep's win over Shorecrest. The Terrapins will have to focus on stopping St. Stephen's junior Alyssa Faulkner, who scored three goals and was all over the net in the Falcons' 5-1 region quarterfinal win over Indian Rocks Christian. The Falcons are aiming for their third straight trip to the region finals.
Winner faces: Fort Myers Evangelical Christian or West Palm Beach King's Academy
Eduardo A. Encina, Times staff writer