Coaches aren't supposed to do this, but John Planamenta has secretly hoped his team would lose. Just once in the regular season to get it out of his team's system. To get it over with.
Palm Harbor U. has arrived in the postseason at 16-0, the only undefeated team in the county and the No. 1 seed in this week's Class 5A District 9 tournament. And if the Hurricanes start losing now it could end their season.
Palm Harbor has a bye in Monday's first round and plays in the semifinals Wednesday, with a trip to the region tournament as one of the top two teams in the district on the line. If the Hurricanes make it to Friday's district final, they play for homefield advantage in the region tournament, but it isn't a must-win game.
"That's the only day we're allowed to lose now," Planamenta said.
Palm Harbor this season has played the best the county has to offer, and won. It's a testament to the team's nearly complete balance. Scoring is spread evenly among the midfield and forwards, and the defense has held opponents to four goals. Twelve of Palm Harbor's 16 games were shutouts.
"It's the defense," Planamenta said. "I give them credit for being so consistent."
The Hurricane attack begins with its back four: Courtney Whidden, Emily Stack, Chelsea Brinkman and Kelly Brinkman, who've been able to contain most offenses, allowing few shots. Keeper Jahanna Azarian is more than capable in goal, just in case.
While the Hurricanes knew they had a strong team at the start of the season, they didn't predict they would go undefeated, and in some places the feat has gone unnoticed. Palm Harbor fell out of the top 10 in one state poll without losing a game. It could be because they've played almost solely within the county. The Hurricanes' only non-county opponent was a formidable test against defending state champion Land O'Lakes.
"Although we may be a strong team in this county, there are teams other places in Florida that are very very strong," senior midfielder Arielle Orr said. "Our whole season has been to build up and practice and get ready for those teams."
The games to come will prove if Palm Harbor is really as good as it appears to be.
"We're playing well, but we're still not playing the best we can," Planamenta said.