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Girls soccer: Sizing up the district tournaments

Newsome's Lauren Evans (2), right, advances the ball defended by Lourdes' Niki Molina (13) during high school Class 5A Semi-final State Championship girls soccer action at Melbourne High School in Melbourne, Fla., Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. (Gary Lloyd McCullough, Special to the Times)
Newsome's Lauren Evans (2), right, advances the ball defended by Lourdes' Niki Molina (13) during high school Class 5A Semi-final State Championship girls soccer action at Melbourne High School in Melbourne, Fla., Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. (Gary Lloyd McCullough, Special to the Times)
Published Jan. 12, 2017

This is the last week of the regular season for girls soccer. District tournaments begin next week, and it is clear there are several area teams with state tournament aspirations. Here is our final regular-season elite eight. Any of these teams have a shot at making the state tournament in Deland. In fact, watch for some of the bubble teams, like Bloomingdale or Wesley Chapel, to make some postseason noise as well.

1. Palm Harbor University (14-0-1)

This week: Friday vs. Osceola (PCAC final)

The skinny: The Hurricanes are gearing up for another state championship run. That was clear in Monday night's 7-2 win over rival Countryside. PHU is the top seed in next week's Class 5A, District 7 tournament at Steinbrenner. Sophomore Alivia Gonzalez is proving again that she is one of the top forwards in the area. She scored four goals against Countryside and has 28 goals this season. Allyssa Woodring isn't far behind with 25. Each also has 12 assists. Overall, 12 players have scored at least one goal.

2. Newsome (15-0-1)

This week: Friday at Plant

The skinny: The Wolves are loaded with talent again. Unfortunately, they will likely matchup against Palm Harbor University in the region semifinals. That could end up being one of the best games of the entire postseason. Sophomore Sophie Shrader is having a monster season, with 23 goals and seven assists. Senior Lauren Evans has also been good, with 13 goals and 13 assists. And junior Jenna Oldham has nine goals and 14 assists. Newsome has outscored opponents 75-8.

3. Land O'Lakes (15-1-2)

This week: Friday vs. Tampa Catholic

The skinny: The Gators showed their depth in a 2-1 win over Mitchell on Monday. That was followed by a hard-fought 1-1 tie against Pasco. Leading scorer Sydny Nasello has been sidelined with a hip injury, but others have stepped up. Samantha Epifanio was the hero against Mitchell with a goal and an assist. She has nine goals and seven assists this season. Nasello leads with 16 goals and 10 assists. Overall, 14 players have scored at least one goal for the Gators.

4. Osceola (18-1)

This week: Friday at Palm Harbor University (PCAC final)

The skinny: The balanced Warriors won the PCAC south division Tuesday with a 2-1 win over St. Petersburg. They are the top seed in Class 3A, District 10 and could go deep in the regionals, although Land O'Lakes could be an obstacle before the state tournament. Rachel Dirks is by far the leading scorer with 27 goals and nine assists. But she is not the lone threat. Leah Pecora had eight goals. Sophia Masut and Taylor Emmanuel each have 12 assists. And goalkeeper Amanda Johnson allows less than a goal per game.

5. Mitchell (15-2)

This week: Thursday at River Ridge

The skinny: The Mustangs' two losses this season are to Palm Harbor University and Land O'Lakes. They are the top seed in Class 4A, District 8 and have a very good chance to go deep in the postseason. Second-leading scorer Aja Graham, who has 13 goals, should be back next week after suffering a concussion in a car accident. Sabrina Wagner is healthy and dangerous. She has 32 goals and 10 assists. Senior Noah Stokes has 11 goals and six assists.

6. Pasco (14-0-2)

This week: Regular season over

The skinny: It's almost as if sophomore Jordyn Kadlub can score goals blindfolded. Opponents know she is the player to stop, but actually doing that has proven nearly impossible. She has 44 goals as well as 12 assists, so she isn't afraid to pass. There are other capable goal scorers, including Jenny Luna (11), Nathalie Sawczuk (six) and Morgan Jefferson (four). Pasco and Wesley Chapel are the top teams in Class 3A, District 7 and could meet in the regionals as well.

7. Academy of the Holy Names (13-2-2)

This week: Regular season over

The skinny: The Jaguars are atop Class 2A, District 9 and are another team that could go far in the postseason. Clearwater Central Catholic and Berkeley Prep are definitely threats in that district. AHN defeated the Marauders 2-0 and Berkeley Prep 2-1 in the regular season. Senior Hannah Menendez is the one to stop. She has 24 goals. Junior Claire Obeck has 10 goals and nine assists. Freshman Olivia Tremonti has 10 assists. The Jaguars haven't given up a goal in nine games. Clearly, the defense is peaking at the right time.

8. Plant (7-0-5)

This week: Friday vs. Newsome

The skinny: Say this for the Panthers, they don't lose. They do, however, have five ties, including an impressive 1-1 result against Palm Harbor University. On Tuesday, the Panthers tied a very good Bloomingdale team 2-2. Plant has played a difficult schedule and is unfortunately in the same district as Palm Harbor University. The Panthers are going to have to find a way to get past PHU, either in the district tournament or perhaps in regionals. Sophomore Shannon Snyder has been an offensive threat.

On the bubble: Bloomingdale (10-1-1), Countryside (10-3-1), Berkeley Prep (11-5-1), Wharton (10-4-3), Wesley Chapel (13-3-2), Clearwater Central Catholic (9-4), Carrollwood Day (13-2), St. Petersburg (9-3), Sunlake (8-4-2).