Team Hillsborough extended its Senior Soccer Challenge winning streak to two Friday night at Countryside High School. The girls came west and beat Team Pinellas, 4-2, following up last year’s 3-1 win.
After playing to a 1-1 draw in the first half, Hillsborough put the match out of reach by scoring two late goals within a minute of each other.
Steinbrenner High’s Alexis Bredeau started that surge in the 77th minute when she netted her second goal of the night and put Hillsborough ahead, 3-1. It wasn’t long before the eventual victors were lighting the scoreboard once again. Also hailing from Steinbrenner, Marley Opila settled into an open spot near the back post, received a cross and finished.
The game is a showcase for the counties’ top athletes and one more chance to take the field competitively as high schoolers, but it’s also a light-hearted atmosphere where players have an opportunity to play with others that are typically on the other bench.
"It’s fun and you get to coach some of these other girls now," said Palm Harbor University coach John Planamenta, coaching Team Pinellas alongside St. Pete Catholic’s Randy Villalba. "It was a good game, too. At the end there we had a lot of chances, but we just couldn’t finish them."
Both Pinellas goals came courtesy of North County players. Countryside’s Riley Narum headed in a first-half equalizer during the 21st minute off a corner kick.
As Planamenta touched upon, a lack of capitalizing on opportunities led to Team Pinellas’ two goals being about 66 minutes apart. East Lake’s Madison Del Duca – who nearly missed on a number of first-and second-half goals – accounted for the final score with a breakaway run. The University of Tennessee commit easily beat Hillsborough’s charging keeper, Plant’s Kara Looby, and had plenty of time to line up and bury her shot.
Del Duca’s East Lake teammate, Kristy Legoas, sent in a fair share of her own attempts that didn’t miss by much – including one on net less than a minute after Del Duca’s goal that was saved by Looby.
Team Hillsborough started the night’s scoring when Bredeau converted a corner kick sent in by Opila, her Steinbrenner teammate, during the fifth minute. The only non-Steinbrenner girl to score a goal Friday night was Gaither’s Jessica Lawless. She broke the 1-1 tie during the 49th minute by flicking a ball over PHU keeper Morgan Lorenti.
Following the game and prior to the boys all-stars taking the field, a number of awards and monetary prizes were given out. Two team MVP’s were selected – one by each team’s own coaches and another by the other team’s coaches – and both received $500 checks. The other award was a $1,000 scholarship given one girl on each side for an essay contest with the prompt: "What has soccer done for me?"
The Pinellas MVP was Seminole’s Jordan Turner, the Pinellas MVP selected by Hillsborough was Clearwater Central Catholic’s Katie Englert and the Pinellas essay winner was East Lake’s Megan Kelly.
The Hillborough MVP and essay winner was Plant’s Caroline Bado and the Hillsborough MVP selected by Pinellas was Tampa Catholic’s Ashleigh Singleton.
Organizers for the 20th Annual Senior Soccer Challenge announced prior to the award presentation that over $100,000 has been given to players since the event’s inception. Over 1,600 boys and girls players have been selected to take part.
Hillsborough - 1 - 3 --- 4
Pinellas - 1 - 1 --- 2
Alexis Bredeau (Steinbrenner) – 2 Goals
Marley Opila (Steinbrenner) – 1 Goal
Jessica Lawless (Gaither) – 1 Goal
Riley Narum (Countryside) – 1 Goal
Madison Del Duca (East Lake) – 1 Goal