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PHU makes good use of rare tournament

As a rule, Palm Harbor University coach Holly Freeman tries to stay away from holiday tournaments. Her team is made up mostly of club players, and they are usually busy playing other tournaments.

But Freeman made an exception this year. The 10 seniors approached Freeman about playing in the Sarasota High tournament. The main reason was a hopeful rematch with Sarasota, which PHU met in last season's Class 3A, Region 3 final.

PHU met the Sailors in the Dec. 23 final, and the Hurricanes (16-0-1, ranked No. 1 in Class 4A) won 2-0 on second-half goals by Sarah McGonegal and Jackie Vilardi. PHU beat Sarasota last season 2-1.

"The girls talked about playing Sarasota ahead of time, and this is the first time we've played in a Christmas-type tournament because the girls are really active in club," Freeman told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. "And they really wanted to play Sarasota. They were really pumped up about it."

The only negative was an injury to senior midfielder Devon Sibole, who was hit in the jaw with a ball in the 43rd minute. She should return for PHU's next regular-season game, Friday at Seminole.

SLEEPER: St. Petersburg was supposed to be a young team hoping for the best this season while eyeing a bright future. But the Green Devils are doing well now.

They are 8-2-1 and second behind Seminole in Class 3A, District 11. Those two meet Wednesday in what could determine the district champion.

The Green Devils are led by sophomore Brittney Lewis, who has 10 assists and seven goals. She is the team's only captain and has filled in admirably for the graduated Erin Bitterli.

Then there is sophomore Krystal Plomatos and junior Lauren Willis, who share team lead with eight goals. Senior Megan Wray and junior Casey Sturm have chipped in with five goals.

The Green Devils could be dangerous in the PCAC and district tournaments. _ RODNEY PAGE