Five girls soccer teams advance to state semifinals

Palm Harbor U., St. Petersburg, Largo, Holy Names and Indian Rocks Christian aren’t daunted on the road in the region finals.
Palm Harbor University is back in the state semifinals again, this time after a 3-2 victory over Winter Park. (Courtesy of PHU)
Palm Harbor University is back in the state semifinals again, this time after a 3-2 victory over Winter Park. (Courtesy of PHU)
Published Feb. 13, 2019

It was a pretty good night for area girls soccer teams in Tuesday’s region finals. Seven teams played, all on the road, and five advanced to Friday’s state semifinals. More on the winners:

Class 5A

Palm Harbor University, which fell 2-1 to Oviedo last year in the state semis, returns and will host. The Hurricanes defeated Winter Park 3-2 on Tuesday night thanks to two second-half goals. They will host Lake Mary on Friday.

Alivia Gonzalez, who set the school record for career goals this season, scored in the first half to give PHU a quick 1-0 lead. But Winter Park scored twice to take a 2-1 halftime lead.

Gonzalez scored again in the second half on a left-footer that lined into the goal.

“Typical Alivia,” PHU coach Randy Irick said.

With just under 10 minutes to play, Gonzalez also factored into the third goal. She raced down the right side and sent a cross into the box. Brittany Kane ran onto the ball and hit a one-time shot that went inside the post.

From there, the Hurricanes (17-1-1) clamped down on defense.

“I told everyone right after that goal that it was going to be the longest nine minutes of your life,” Irick said. “And it was. At least until Friday, when it will probably happen again.”

Class 4A

St. Petersburg had a daunting task in Tuesday night’s region final. The Green Devils had to play at 18-1-1 Venice, which was ranked fifth in the state by MaxPreps. They were not intimidated.

St. Petersburg fell behind by a goal in the first half, tied it in the second half and eventually defeated the Indians 2-1 in penalty kicks (5-4).

The Green Devils (17-3-1) will play at Fort Lauderdale Archbishop McCarthy on Friday. The Mavericks are 24-0 and ranked second in the state and fourth nationally.

On Tuesday, Alexa Goldberg scored St. Petersburg’s only goal just before the second-half water break on a header off a corner kick.

After two 10-minute overtimes, the match went to penalty kicks. Each goalkeeper made two saves in the first five kicks. St. Petersburg’s Angeline Friel made a save in the seventh round. Goldberg then converted her kick to win the match and spark a wild celebration.

“It was really a pretty level game,” Green Devils coach Rui Farias said. “We had some one-on-ones that we should’ve converted. And then in the final five minutes of overtime both teams were just spent. When (Goldberg) made the shot it was just relief.”

Class 3A

Largo played Merritt Island in last year’s region final, losing 1-0. This year’s rematch was also close, but this time the Packers came out on top. Regulation ended in a 1-1 tie. Overtime did nothing to break it, so the game went into penalty kicks. The Packers prevailed 4-3 for an official 2-1 win over the defending state champions.

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Largo (18-4-3) will play at Plantation American Heritage on Friday.

“If we can beat the two-time state champs then I think we can beat anybody,” Largo coach Dan Flynn said.

Merritt Island scored in the 24th minute on a header. But just two minutes later Mckenzie Emery scored on an assist from Monique Gray to tie the score. Neither team had many good chances for the rest of the game.

There was a one-hour, 10-minute lightning delay before the start of the game.

“It was a very well played game on both sides,” Flynn said. “I think we’re playing at our best right now.”

Class 2A

Academy of the Holy Names advanced to the state semifinals by executing the game plan it talked about before the game. The Jaguars scored two quick first-half goals, both by Madison Kurtz, then hung on in the second half for a 2-1 win over Fort Myers Bishop Verot.

AHN (16-5-1) will play at Sarasota Cardinal Gibbons on Friday.

“We wanted to jump on them early,” coach Kareem Escayg said. “(Kurtz) scored on a header and then on one in the box. From there we wanted to keep doing what we were doing because it was working. We wanted to control the tempo. They scored early in the second half and then the pressure was on. It always takes forever to hear that final whistle when you are the team ahead.”

The Jaguars lost to Bishop Verot in the region final last season, 2-1.

“This group has been through the heartache of losing this game,” Escayg said. “But failure is fuel.”

Class A

Indian Rocks Christian advanced to the state semifinals for the first time in school history after defeating Fort Myers Canterbury 2-1.

Erica Roberts scored late in the first half to give the Golden Eagles a 1-0 lead. Canterbury tied the game 10 minutes into the second half. Then, with two minutes to play, Mary Grace Gramlich scored the winner. She was assisted by her sister, Lauren.

IRC (14-6-1) needed overtime to beat Calvary Christian in the region semifinals.

“The kids are tired, but they pushed through,” IRC assistant coach Ryan Masi said. “They were clutch when they had to be.”

IRC is a very young team. It starts three eighth graders, four freshmen, one sophomore, two juniors and one senior.

The Golden Eagles will play at home against Jacksonville St. John’s Country Day on Friday.

Maybe next time

Mitchell and River Ridge did not have as much luck Tuesday. The Mustangs lost 3-0 to Montverde in Class 4A, while the Royal Knights fell 3-0 to Gainesville Eastside in Class 3A.