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St. Petersburg and PHU's desire to be best in the county is tempered by the need to be in top condition for the postseason.
By MEYLA HOOKER
Published January 21, 2005
Pride defines the programs at St. Petersburg and Palm Harbor University.
But when the squads meet in tonight's Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship, both coaches expect a spirited, yet cautious match.
"It's weird because you don't want to get anyone hurt or ejected," St. Petersburg coach Rui Farias said. "You play to win, of course, but you don't want to do anything to jeopardize the playoffs."
While both teams would like to be called county champs, they realize the game means nothing in terms of advancing toward a state title. Both teams are expected to advance out of next week's district tournaments and go deep into the Class 5A playoffs.
St. Petersburg, representing south county in the PCAC title game for the fifth straight year, hasn't lost since falling to PHU 2-0 in its season opener at home. The Green Devils (13-1-2) have outscored opponents 69-0 since. That's 1,200 minutes of scoreless soccer. The Green Devils are 2-2 in their past four PCAC title games.
PHU (12-1-1) is the north county representative for the third consecutive year. The Hurricanes defeated St. Petersburg 4-0 in last year's title game.
"This game actually has perfect timing," PHU coach John Planamenta said. "Without it, we would go a full week and a half without a game. This gives our girls a chance to be on the field against great competition."
Planamenta said landing the title "county's best" is what motivates his team to come out focused for this game.
The Hurricanes, who have outscored opponents 67-10, are led by junior forwards Courtney Whidden (23 goals, six assists) and Annie Stalzer (11 goals, nine assists).
St. Petersburg senior keeper Rachel Howard has allowed two goals in 16 games, while senior forward Emily Smith leads the team with 13 goals and 15 assists.
"There is a pride factor involved," Farias said. "We've worked hard on our system of play. The players know they have to step up and do the work on the field."