PALM HARBOR — Who are these Hurricanes?
Defensive-minded Palm Harbor University continued its offensive assault on Class 5A District 7 opponents Friday night by shell-shocking Plant High 5-0 and claiming yet another league title.
“If we can keep this up I'll be a happy camper,” said PHU coach John Planamenta. “They've been playing well recently and with confidence. They're finishing. That's finally coming around.”
Five different Hurricanes got in on the barrage Friday and PHU outscored its three district-tournament opponents – Alonso, East Lake and Plant – by a combined score of 12-1.
Senior Alyssa Skryd put PHU on the board in the 17th minute with a beautifully placed shot from about 25 yards out that sailed over the reach of the Plant keeper. It was the first of four top-shelf goals the 'Canes scored on the night.
“[Coach Planamenta] always encourages us to shoot it from outside the box,” Skryd said of her early goal. “We have a lot of confidence from all these goals now which is going to be good going into regionals.”
PHU went up comfortably late in the first half with a pair of goals within a minute of each other.
Marisa Ruland pushed the lead to 2-0 when her seemingly harmless shot on goal in the 38th slid through the keeper's legs. Shalisa Crowell, who assisted on a goal in last night's semifinal win over East Lake, quickly increased the advantage to 3-0 by netting another high attempt.
Alexis Mouton and Aniko Zabo put the finishing touches on the 5-0 victory with goals in the second half. Mouton's was her seventh of the district tournament alone.
When PHU attackers weren't converting five of their 15 total shots into goals, the Hurricanes' always-solid midfield and defense frustrated Plant all night. Stressed by Planamenta from the start was limiting touches by Panthers stars Nastasia Asgedom and Abby Sanchez.
“Their offense is strong and our back players all year have been solid,” Planamenta said. “Plant had some chances, Abby [Sanchez] had a few early, and [Sarah] Raymond made a few adjustments on marking her.
“[Asgedom], I tried to neutralize her toward the end of the first half. I had Quinn [Lombard] mark her because she was just all over the place controlling the game.”
While winning district titles is something of a formality at this point for PHU, Skryd said the 'Canes weren't looking past a talented Plant High team they tied 1-1 in the only previous meeting this year. “We knew this was going to be a really great challenge because we played Plant before and they're a really good team.”
The Hurricanes (14-0-5) now play host to Class 5A District 8 runner-up St. Petersburg on Thursday night. The Green Devils lost to Bradenton Manatee – Plant's destination Thursday – by a similar 5-0 score.
This will be PHU's 17th straight year qualifying for the regional playoffs, a streak that began in 1998. The 'Canes have now won 11 of their past 12 league-championship matches.
Palm Harbor University (14-0-5)
17' – Alyssa Skryd – Goal
38' – Marisa Ruland – Goal
39' – Shalisa Crowell – Goal
54' – Alexis Mouton – Goal