PALM HARBOR — East Lake didn’t get the win it would have liked in Friday night’s rivalry at Palm Harbor University, but the Lady Eagles still left triumphantly.
Their 1-1 draw secured the Class 5A District 7 second seed in next month’s league tournament.
“Obviously we wanted a win but we’re ahead of them now,” said East Lake sophomore Emily Cady. “They have to play the extra game and we don’t.”
Friday’s match was most likely a preview of Jan. 16’s win-or-go-home district semifinal between two of Pinellas County’s premier programs. The loss forces still-unbeaten PHU (10-0-5) to play last-place Alonso High on Saturday, Jan. 11 prior to the season’s third and final battle with East Lake (11-4-3).
“The only way we can look at it is that it’s a game that we have to win. But it’s a game rather than sitting. We don’t have a game that week.” PHU coach John Planamenta said about having to take care of Alonso before East Lake. The tune-up may not be a terrible thing for the Hurricanes, who don’t play again until that Saturday afternoon match.
East Lake earned the first-round bye thanks to Cady’s second-half equalizer. The Eagles’ Maggie Amos struck a free kick from about 25 yards out that first went off the head of Elisha Holmes before Cady headed it inside the left post.
The goal came not long after to PHU’s Quinn Lombard opened the night’s scoring in the 42nd minute. The senior captain sent a perfectly arched ball toward net from near the right corner that found its way over the leaping Mackenzie Nalven.
Both teams put together a number of quality scoring opportunities Friday that ended with a wide attempt or impressive save.
PHU’s Katie Im nearly broke the scoreless tie in the 34th minute by beating her defender on a run to receive a deep through ball but her shot attempt was cut off at the last second by East Lake defender Dominique Nelson. Hurricanes junior Kayla Mouton turned in a quality match bombing down the right wing all night, but couldn’t manage to convert any of the runs into goals.
Two East Lake scoring opportunities in the final five minutes also came up short.
PHU keeper Rachel Taylor made a diving save to stuff the first, then Amos’ straight-away free kick from 25 yards sailed just over the crossbar.
[Boys] EAGLES 4 HURRICANES 1
The same district implications didn’t apply to the boys’ late match Friday.
East Lake (14-1-1) entered as a lock for the District 5A-7 No. 2 seed and PHU (9-6-0) is fourth.
But after being dealt their first loss of the season against league foe Steinbrenner on Dec. 10, star forward Josh Page said the Eagles have been playing with a heightened desire and focus.
It showed Friday night, as Page bookended East Lake’s four-goal performance in a convincing 4-1 victory.
“The first 10 minutes we came out on fire,” said Page, whose pair of scores increased his county-high season total to 23. “We were doing everything we’re supposed to do. We’ve been a little bit sluggish lately but we’re picking it up now.”
East Lake’s steady pressure paid off 33 minutes into the match. Page controlled a lengthy cross off his chest from the right side of the goal box, spun and ripped a shot just inside the far post.
Eagles senior Alex Carbonelli pushed the advantage to 2-0 five minutes into the second half with a header, but PHU quickly cut that in half. Codey Iturri cashed in a run by beating his defender, drifting to his right and slamming a right-footed shot past keeper Jeff Richmond.
PHU struggled to control possession and play balls to its attack throughout much of the first half and into the second. Five of the six shots the Hurricanes did get on goal were saved by Richmond.
Senior Taylor Yeretzian scored East Lake’s third goal with a diving header in the 55th minute and Page knocked in a penalty kick for the fourth.
For the Eagles and ‘Canes to meet again, PHU will have to win its quarterfinal match and then upset No. 1 seed Steinbrenner. East Lake has no easy path to the league title game, either. The Eagles will likely have to beat No. 3 Plant in the semis.
49’ – Emily Cady – Goal (Assists: Maggie Amos and Elisha Holmes)
Palm Harbor University (10-0-5)
42’ – Quinn Lombard – Goal
45’ – Alex Carbonelli – Goal
55’ – Taylor Yeretzian – Goal
Palm Harbor University (9-6-0)
47’ – Codey Iturri – Goal