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Plant stuns PHU

By BOB PUTNAM, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 19, 2003

PALM HARBOR -- Palm Harbor University coach Juan Pablo Pinzon was still gathering up belongings and consoling dejected players as he tried to figure out how his team couldn't cash in when it had Plant on the ropes.

After forcing overtime on a last-minute goal, Palm Harbor University couldn't score again in four overtimes and was beaten 5-4 in two rounds of penalty kicks, allowing the Panthers to win 3-2.

The Hurricanes, the defending state champions, ended their season 22-2-2.

"Sometimes you can pounce on a team and the ball just doesn't want to go in," Pinzon said. "Once you get to penalty kicks, you either make it or you don't. The soccer gods just weren't on our side tonight."

In regulation, Brandon Whitsett scored in the first half to put the Hurricanes ahead 1-0. The Panthers tied it one minute later on a goal by Thomas Howell and went up 2-1 on Donald Greiwe's shot 15 minutes into the second half.

But Plant (15-0-3) lost the lead -- and momentum -- when the Hurricanes' Felix Tan headed in a goal with less than a minute left to force overtime.

Palm Harbor U. (22-2-2) controlled the pace in the four five-minute overtimes but couldn't score despite numerous opportunities. The closest calls came when Chris Belmont's shot went far left as time expired in the first overtime and Tan's header went far right as time expired in the final overtime.

That gave Plant hope, and after eight penalty kicks, Jacob Munich put the Panthers ahead with a kick into the left corner.

Backup keeper John Jacob sealed the win with a diving stop on Palm Harbor's next attempt.

"You keep wondering when the bubble is going to burst, but it hasn't yet," Plant coach Kevin Burns said.

"We let the game go into overtime, which was heartbreaking, but the guys really showed unbelievable effort to come back from that and win."

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