CLEARWATER — It was all East Lake at the Nike Thanksgiving Soccer Tournament as both the boys and girls programs took home championships Wednesday afternoon.
Shortly after the girls hung on for a 2-1 victory over Flagler Palm Coast, their male classmates finished off Clearwater, 4-1.
“It was a gritty performance,” East Lake girls coach Sergei Stopek said of the win. “Everyone in the tournament here gave everything they had until there was nothing left.”
Preserving the win for Stopek's Eagles was a huge defensive stop in the match's final minute. East Lake had been struggling with Palm Coast's set pieces all day and the Bulldogs appeared to convert their second of the match when a rebound off keeper Mackenzie Nalven went right back to Tanagna Payne. There to reject the second chance, though, was defender Dominique Nelson jumping in net as backup.
“Wow, yeah, that was big,” Stopek said. “We didn't want to give them any corner kicks or set pieces, but then Dominique flew in there and took it off her stomach.”
East Lake (9-2-2) had taken back the lead about 10 minutes prior to Nelson's heads-up save when senior Sheridan Lester found the back of the net.
Emily Cady led off the day's scoring shortly after the first-half water break, beating keeper Franchesca Arzuaga with a low shot from just outside the top of the 18.
“There's a lot of depth on this team and depth is what truly got us through this tournament,” Stopek said.
On the boys side, East Lake didn't face quite as much resistance against an improving but still overmatched Clearwater opponent.
Leading goal scorer Josh Page headed in a cross to put the Eagles up 1-0 midway through the first half. The goal was Page's 16th on the year.
The Tornadoes got an equalizer minutes later with a penalty kick, but the first of Pierre Goris' two goals put East Lake back on top right before halftime.
The Eagles (9-0-1) would only add to their lead from there. Goris opened the second half with a goal from the top of the 18 and Tanner Young capped the scoring with a lunging header off Austin Sadorf's cross.
“This was a nice opportunity for us and the competition was quite good,” East Lake boys coach Alex Stenson said. “[Clearwater] beat Palm Harbor yesterday and then they gave us a hard time for a long time today.”
The boys game was a rematch of East Lake's 4-0 win over Clearwater on Nov. 5.
The Monday-Wednesday tournament is typically played in Lakewood Ranch but was moved to Clearwater last week.
East Lake's boys and girls both finished 3-0-1 overall this week.
Flagler Palm Coast (11-2-1)