Countryside was hoping for a little cause and effect Friday night in the Class 5A, District 9 final.
The cause: score early.
The effect: set the tone, and Palm Harbor University back on its heels.
The Cougars did score first, but the effect left a little something to be desired. In a five-minute burst after Countryside's opening foray, the Hurricanes scored three times en route to a 4-2 win and the 5A-9 title.
PHU hosts St. Petersburg in Thursday's regional playoff opener. Countryside returns to the playoffs for the first time in four seasons but will do so on the road at Seminole.
The Hurricanes stayed unbeaten at 18-0 with a flurry of goals from sisters Kelly and Chelsea Brinkman and Kaylyn Smith that stole the momentum.
"Countryside came out strong and we came out a little flat," PHU coach John Planameta said. "The biggest thing I told them before the game was that we needed to be high pressure. And as soon as they got that first goal, we really stepped it up with our three."
Countryside (2-17) gained some of that momentum back at the end of the half, cutting the lead to 3-2 at halftime on Jasmine Johnson's penalty kick. But the halftime break allowed PHU to regroup, and the Hurricanes dominated the second half.
Annie Stalzer produced the death knell for any Cougar comeback hopes in the 46th minute.
Working just outside the box, the Hurricane sophomore shrugged off a defender, who went to the ground after the two bumped bodies, and sharply turned 90 degrees to fire a 20-yard shot past Countryside keeper Keeli Cahalan.
SEMINOLE _ Moments after Seminole's Kathleen Pollard missed a penalty kick for the first time this season, she got her redemption.
St. Petersburg keeper Rachael Howard couldn't get a grip on the wet ball and it ricocheted off her hands. Pollard reacted quickly and made sure the ball went in the second time around.
The goal enabled Seminole to defend its Class 5A, District 10 title with a 1-0 victory. It was the second season in a row the Warhawks beat the Green Devils in the final.
The Warhawks (17-3-1) will host Countryside in the region quarterfinals on Wednesday. St. Petersburg (13-5-1) will travel to play Palm Harbor University.
"This has turned into a big rivalry with St. Petersburg," Pollard said. "It was pretty intense out there. I just wanted to do my part to help us win."
After a scoreless first half, Pollard got her opportunity with 25 minutes remaining in regulation.
_ BOB PUTNAM
LAKEWOOD 4, SOUTHEAST 0: Southeast and Lakewood both scored two goals, but the Seminoles proved that sometimes you lose even when you tie as the Spartans won the championship. With 28:29 left in the second half, the ball ricocheted off a Southeast defender as the Seminoles were trying to clear, putting Lakewood up 2-0. With 9:30 left, Suzi Herbert threw the ball in from the home sideline toward the front of the net. It hit the head of a Southeast defender and bounced into the goal past the keeper.
_ JEREMY WRITT
CCC 4, ST. PETERSBURG CATHOLIC 1: With captain and leading scorer Kari Weniger out with MCL and ACL injuries, an inspired Clearwater Central Catholic beat St. Petersburg Catholic to win the championship. "We had to make an adjustment because of Kari's injury, and it took us 10 minutes to get started, and we did really well getting into the flow of the game," Marauders coach Tom Typrowicz said. St. Petersburg Catholic took a 1-0 lead a minute in when Kathleen Howe scored off a corner kick. Goalkeeper Kim Winning's five first-half saves and the Barons stifling defense frustrated CCC until Molly Schaefer poked in a goal 25 minutes in. Lisa Matuska then scored the winner from 12 yards.
_ CARMINO IMONDI