PALM HARBOR — Alexis Mouton’s postseason goal-scoring tear continued Tuesday, as she broke open a goalless game with 22:30 left and Palm Harbor University defeated Manatee 2-0. PHU (16-0-5) returns to the region final after a two-year hiatus and will host Lakeland George Jenkins on Friday night.
Mouton’s younger sister Kayla scored the insurance goal with nine minutes left. Both received the ball on their non-favored left foot.
“When it came to me I got nervous,” Alexis said. “All I could think was ‘What if I miss?’ because I’m not good with my left.”
She has nine goals since the start of the district tournament after scoring only once all regular season. The Alabama commit’s goal Tuesday came as a result of constant PHU pressure, resulting in a failed clearance.
The hosts carried the play throughout the second half after Manatee controlled play before the break. The visitors (15-5-2) were coming off of their first playoff win since 1999, ending a streak of nine first-round losses.
“We didn’t know a lot about them, and they started getting more confidence after I felt we’d dominated the first 10 minutes. We were just playing kickball. We really needed halftime so we could talk,” Alexis Mouton said.
The gist of the conversation was play more balls to people, and to switch the field more quickly. Midfielder Kathryn Huapaya was a sparkplug on both counts.
Kayla Mouton’s putaway score was a thing of beauty, as she changed directions three times while as many Manatee defenders tried to stop her.
“I had to cut it back one last time, to get it on my right foot,” she said. “Manatee was a good team. We had to pick it up in the second half.”
But Rachel Taylor easily snagged a last-second long ball to secure the shutout.
Mackenzie Geier headed off two of Manatee’s better second-half advances. The back line of Geier, Sarah Raymond, Quinn Lombard and Christina Cesta seemed to be in the right position all night. Manatee’s only serious chances came on an early corner kick and a rare giveaway.
“It’s easy to be confident when you have the players I have around me,” Geier said. “We are so well prepared by Coach (John Planamenta). When you practice hard you play hard. And we had a really good week of practice.”