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Unbeaten in 20 games, St. Petersburg rides its 18th shutout into the region final.
By JOHN C. COTEY
Published February 9, 2005
CAPE CORAL - As far as St. Petersburg traveled Tuesday to Cape Coral, it wasn't nearly as long a trip as Terri Miller's walk off the field after receiving her second yellow card with 22 minutes remaining.
Sitting with her legs crossed near the corner flag, a frustrated Miller buried her hands in her face until a Mariner assistant coach fetched her.
The Green Devil defense can do that to a person.
For the 18th time this season, St. Petersburg's stout defenders and keeper Rachel Howard shut out an opponent as the Green Devils moved on to the regional championship game with a 3-0 win over the Tritons.
The victory sets up a third meeting Friday between St. Petersburg and Palm Harbor University, with a Class 5A final four spot on the line. The teams have split two meetings, with PHU winning the season opener and St. Petersburg getting revenge in the PCAC championship.
The Hurricanes were the last team to beat St. Petersburg (18-1-2), which stretched its unbeaten streak to 20 games.
After a shaky start in which the Green Devils struggled adjusting to Mariner's speed, St. Petersburg struck back quickly.
In the fifth minute, Emily Smith took a short pass from Meggie Ford and deked a defender in the box, ripping a shot far post for her 19th goal and a 1-0 lead.
"That," said coach Rui Farias, "seemed to settle us down."
Smith, questionable before the game with bad hamstrings, returned the favor in the 30th minute. After Nadira Jibreal was taken down in the box to set up a penalty kick, Smith - who normally takes that shot and is just two goals from 100 for her career - walked away from it and called for Ford to take it. The junior midfielder went low right for a 2-0 lead.
Mariner still had Miller, a sophomore with 55 goals this season. But with Cory Woodworth shadowing her from behind and Leslie Dentinger working in front, Miller never got off. She had two decent scoring chances, both saved by Howard, and was finally overcome by frustration, leading to her exit.
Three minutes later, Andrea Rodrigues' corner kick to the far post was headed back towards the middle by Dentinger before Ford came charging through to outjump two defenders and head it in for her sixth goal to seal the Tritons' fate.