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Cougars break state playoff drought

For the first time in four years Countryside advanced to the state playoffs, defeating East Lake 4-1 in Wednesday's 5A-9 district semifinal.

The Cougars and Eagles played evenly until Kassy Boivin scored in the 21st minute on a penalty kick, shifting the momentum in the Cougars' favor.

Before the end of the half, Countryside's Whitney Welch, Hana Kaba and Jasmine Johnson all scored.

"The first goal was very important," East Lake coach Dean Wortz said. "To give that up just deflated us. They were very quick to get on top of us. They saw we were down and they put it to us."

Courtney McPherson found the net in the 76th minute to put East Lake (7-13-1) on the board. The Eagles were missing four players, including keeper Breanna Campion (broken thumb) and the team's strongest player, Shana Hudson, who was serving a red-card suspension.

"We knew they weren't at 100 percent," Countryside coach Tony Atherholt said. "I just hoped my girls didn't take that and take a break themselves. They're a good team and they still could have beaten us."

Countryside (2-16) will play Palm Harbor U. (17-0) Friday in the district final. The Hurricanes defeated Clearwater (7-7-1) 6-0 in the second semifinal.

Tornadoes keeper Katie Ferris stopped an onslaught of shots in a game that easily could have been 8-0 before halftime.

Annie Stalzer scored three goals in the first half to lead Palm Harbor to a 4-0 halftime lead. Sara Stack, Kelly Brinkman and Courtney Whidden also scored for the Hurricanes.

5A-10: Powers to meet

SEMINOLE _ A district final between Seminole and St. Petersburg, anticipated since the season began, became reality when the two powers easily dispatched their semifinal opponents.

The Warhawks ended Gibbs season with a 2-0 victory. Kathleen Pollard and Teah Limitone scored for Seminole, which outshot the Gladiators 32-2. Amanda Tucker, a freshman keeper, recorded her fifth shutout this month.

St. Petersburg breezed by Boca Ciega 4-0. The Green Devils scored twice in each half. Kali Cooper had two goals to lead St. Petersburg.

Friday's meeting will be a rematch of last season's final, which the Warhawks won 4-1.

Seminole had a rough start this season, losing four in a row. But the Warhawks bounced back and are undefeated in district play, including a 3-0 victory over the Green Devils earlier this month.

_ BOB PUTNAM

4A-13: Osceola shocked

ST. PETERSBURG _ Pleased with the play of Osceola keeper Jenna Pine, who made a number of crucial saves, interim coach Randy Villalba happily had settled on the thought that penalty kicks would decide Tuesday's game against Bradenton Southeast as the clock wound down in the fourth overtime.

Then in a flash that Villalba said "was like slow motion to me," Stephanie Wacker's played-through ball settled at the foot of Megan Swithers, who swiftly beat Pine to the far post with six seconds remaining to end the Warriors season.

Swithers' goal, her third, gave Southeast a 4-3 win in the Class 4A, District 13 semifinals, leaving the stunned Warriors in its wake.

Trailing 2-0 and 3-1, Osceola fought back despite being a player down because of a red card. Alycia Foley scored on two free kicks _ from 25 and 23 yards _ in the final 16 minutes to tie.

But in the third overtime, Carolyn Ruby, who set up two goals, was taken down on a breakaway and broke her right arm. The Warriors (10-7) were pressuring at the time but failed to regain their zip when play resumed after a long delay.

"We had the momentum," Villalba said. "I think we lost it after the injury. Carolyn was our spark. We weren't the same after she got hurt."

The Seminoles (13-13) host Lakewood at 7 p.m. Friday in the final. The Spartans beat Palmetto 3-0 to improve to 14-2-1.

Abbie Harms scored first for Lakewood in the 25th minute, and a header by Sarah Smith off Michelle Marshall's corner kick made it 2-0 right after halftime.

The top-seeded Spartans finished off Palmetto (4-15-1) in the 71st minute when Sarah Vega booted home a rebound.

_ JOHN C. COTEY

4A-10: Spongers cruise

TARPON SPRINGS _ Zephyrhills defeated No. 2 seed Ridgewood 1-0, and No. 1 Tarpon Springs defeated Hudson 8-0 to reach the 4A-10 final.

Defending district champions Tarpon Springs (14-3) advanced after making quick work of Hudson (3-14-3). Ashley Jeffris scored two goals 10 minutes into the game then assisted on Brandi Bianco's goal 15 minutes later.

The Spongers added one more in the first half, leading 4-0 at halftime.

"It was hard, like a permanent headache," said Tarpon's Libby Gianeskis of the cold conditions. "But I think we are unbeatable as long as we play up to par."

Tarpon Springs returns nine starters from last season's state semifinal team and faces Zephyrhills (7-9-1) for the third time, having beaten it both times previously.

"We have to keep it in perspective," coach John Freiermuth said. "It's four more games.

"You can't talk about the state finals without having to play these next four games."

Allie Beasman scored the lone goal and Samantha Smith made 10 saves in the first semifinal, the Bulldogs' third game against Ridgewood (10-8-1) this season and only victory

Nicole Smith kept the Rams in the game with a penalty kick save, one of 13 saves, before Beasman, who leads the team in assists, scored the winner.

"(Beasman) told me it was an ugly goal," said Janet Heyman, who coached the Bulldogs to their last district championship in 2000. "(Wednesday), she kind of set her mind, though. If she had an open look, she would shoot."

_ ERIC MUSKATEVC

3A-9: CCC, SPC move on

CLEARWATER _ On a frigid night at Clearwater Central Catholic, St. Petersburg Catholic and Clearwater Central Catholic advanced to play in Friday's Class 3A, District 9 championship.

In the first semifinal, freshman Lauren Murray's steal at midfield and goal from 20 yards during the second half propelled the Barons (9-7-4) to a 1-0 victory over Sarasota Cardinal Mooney.

Kathleen Howe was credited with the assist on the goal.

Coach D'Arcy Clarie said he was proud of his team.

"We did not start off very well," he said. "But our great goalie and great defense kept us in it."

Cardinal Mooney had numerous chances, but SPC goalkeeper Kim Winning stoned every chance, finishing with five saves.

The Cougars had a goal nullified late after Gina Torchia was called offsides.

"We dodged a lot of bullets against a very good Cardinal Mooney team," Clarie said.

In the second semifinal, CCC advanced with a 6-2 thrashing of Tampa Catholic.

However, the Marauders lost leading scorer Kari Weniger to a serious knee injury late in the first half. His status is unknown.

CCC opened the scoring when Lisa Matuska poked in goal past Julia Crawford seven minutes in.

Tampa Catholic tied it five minutes later with Theresa Tozier scoring off a corner kick. CCC regained the lead for good when Taylor Jacobs scored from 10 yards in the 24th minute.

The Marauders (15-5-1) then got five consecutive goals by Matuska, Samantha Freedman, Kathleen Hunter and Alexis Bershaw.

_ CARMINO IMONDI

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