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PALM HARBOR - Palm Harbor University didn't lack motivation entering Thursday's match against Alonso.
Chastised by coach Juan Pablo Pinzon after a subpar performance in a 2-1 win over Pinellas Park in the opening round of the Hurricane Watch Tournament, PHU responded with a strong 3-2 victory against Alonso.
The win puts the Hurricanes (15-3-3) into the championship opposite Countryside, which advanced by goal differential over Clearwater. The Tornadoes defeated Largo 4-2 in the first match Thursday. Clearwater (6-4-3) faces Alonso (9-9-3) in today's consolation final.
"I'm a lot happier," said Pinzon after the victory over the Ravens. "That's more like the way we play, knock it around and keep it on the ground, possess the ball."
PHU had control of the match throughout the first half and into the second, opening a 3-0 lead before Alonso's Armando Romero scored twice in the final 15 minutes.
The Ravens had motivation of their own. After playing Pinellas Park to a 2-all draw Wednesday night, they found out on the bus ride home a schoolmate, Matthew Miulli, had collapsed and died during baseball tryouts.
"It definitely affected our team," said Alonso coach Ray DiPompo, whose team wore wristbands in remembrance of Miulli. "We played the game for him, and I'm proud of our kids.
"Our goalkeeper (Andrew Madero) played outstanding. Without him, it would have been one-sided."
PHU opened scoring after a run down the left side by Nick Eby, which drew three Raven defenders. Eby still served the ball into the box in front of Madero for the finish by Tyler Bowes in the 19th minute.
Thomas Harrington made it 2-0 eight minutes later after a corner kick by David Cole. The ball reached Alex Athanasopoulos, who knocked it in to Harrington for the finish.
The second half was more even, at least until Madero took down Shane Burroughs at the right side of the box. A penalty kick was awarded to Burroughs and he converted, making it 3-0 in the 57th minute.
Clearwater overcame a 2-1 deficit against Largo with three goals in the final 20 minutes. Brian Shriver scored all four for the Tornadoes, including two in a two-minute span.
"He's the one we were missing for six games," Clearwater coach Marco Pollastri said. "He was huge."