PALM HARBOR — In three tries, Countryside has yet to find an answer to solve the East Lake Eagles.
To the Cougars' credit, neither has the rest of the county.
East Lake kept its unbeaten record intact Monday with a 2-1 victory in the opening round of the Hurricane Watch tournament at Palm Harbor University. The Eagles have defeated Countryside twice and tied the Cougars once this season.
"They finished their opportunities and we didn't," Countryside coach David Sica said. "It's that simple."
East Lake (13-0-4) took a 1-0 lead four minutes into the second half when Brett Hummel fed Nicholas Patterson.
Derya Ekren evened the score seven minutes later for Countryside (8-5-6) when he finished a one-on-one break by slipping a shot through the legs of the East Lake goalkeeper.
In the 58th minute, Matthew Kimball converted quite possibly the easiest goal of his soccer career. With East Lake mounting pressure, Kimball passed into the box to Patterson, who sent a shot off the right post. The ball ricocheted directly to Kimball, who needed only to tap the ball into the net with Countryside's keeper out of the play.
"I had the pass to Nick," Kimball said. "I could have taken the shot but I decided to pass it off to him. … I guess unselfishness paid off."
Lakewood 3, PHU 3
Down 3-0, Lakewood staged a furious second-half comeback to tie defending Hurricane Watch champ Palm Harbor University in both teams' opening tournament game.
The Hurricanes appeared to have a win wrapped up when Matthew Tobin scored to put PHU ahead 3-0 with 30 minutes remaining.
Instead of burying Lakewood (8-2-2), however, the deficit seemed to wake up the Spartans. Will Sharp notched the Spartans' first goal in the 60th minute to give Lakewood renewed life.
With five minutes remaining, Yahm Effiom came off the bench to muscle a shot past the PHU keeper after a scramble in the box to make it 3-2.
Lorenzo Hogans just missed tying the game a minute later when his right-footed blast caromed off the right post. But in the final two minutes, Hamza Elotmani gathered a rebound and found an opening in goal.
"We were fighting hard to come back," Elotmani said. "My teammate took a shot and it hit off somebody. The ball came back to me. I just took the shot and put it in the net."
Brandon Shaneyfelt and Ryan VanSchaick had first-half goals to give PHU (15-3-3) a 2-0 lead at halftime.
"From my standpoint, this is one of the most beautiful things that I could ever ask for out of these guys," Lakewood coach Rob Bauer said. "Not giving up, not rolling over, coming out and taking care of business. We didn't back down."