MELBOURNE — Palm Harbor University had its game clicking on all cylinders heading into last week’s Class 5A state final four.
The unbeaten team with the near-impenetrable defense was suddenly finding the back of the net like it hadn’t all season.
The Hurricanes stormed into Friday’s state semifinal match against Vero Beach on a six-game winning streak in which they blitzed opponents by a combined score of 20-3.
When all that’s left are four of the best teams across the state, though, it only takes a couple moments to drastically alter the course of a match. A few missed opportunities here and a mid-game mistake there were all it took to result in a 1-0 defeat.
A PHU foul allowed Vero Beach to score its lone goal on a penalty kick in the 31st minute.
“I feel sorry for them for that,” Hurricanes Coach John Planamenta said of losing on a PK. “Once they got the penalty it’s always hard to regroup. They attack so well with numbers, we tried to catch them on a counterattack but we couldn’t generate the support.”
PHU created a number of quality attacks, but nobody was able to finish one off like they had been doing so well in past matches. Katie Im and sisters Alexis and Kayla Mouton all watched attempts just miss beating Indians keeper Nikki Illare.
Despite the earlier-than-desired exit Friday, Planamenta praised his team’s effort all season and its ability to get back to states.
“I’m proud of the girls,” he said after the loss. “Unfortunately, this is their first loss, but they played well. They made it to the final four. It’s a huge accomplishment.”
PHU finished the year 17-1-4 on the year and made the program’s 10th final-four trip.
5A Boys Soccer: East Lake to states
EAST LAKE — The Eagles’ exciting Class 5A playoff run continues Friday night in Melbourne.
East Lake picked up a hard-fought, 1-0 win at Newsome High last week to qualify for its second state final four in school history.
The battle-tested Eagles face another top-notch opponent in Boca Raton (22-1-2) Friday evening at 5:30.
A win would put East Lake in its first-ever state championship game against either Miami Columbus or Oviedo.