PHU back in East Lake's sights

Published January 19, 2006

PINELLAS PARK - The third time was not a charm when East Lake lost to Palm Harbor University earlier this season. Now the Eagles will get a fourth shot at the Hurricanes, and this time it will decide a Class 5A, District 9 title.

Wednesday night at Pinellas Park High, East Lake and Palm Harbor U. each posted 7-0 victories. The schools will meet Friday night for the championship.

Palm Harbor U. coach John Planamenta is hoping for a good game. Both teams have qualified for regionals and he wants to see both schools advance on a positive note.

If the semifinals are any indication, it should be a close battle.

East Lake goalie Ali Burnham had nine saves en route to her shutout. Alicia Nalley and Brittany Nalley each scored a pair of goals. Leah Fisher, Erika Schaefer and Kelly Shea also scored.

For Shea, it was her first varsity goal.

"I didn't know right away, but when I saw it go in I was very happy," she said.

Shea predicted her teammates would be ready to surprise Palm Harbor U., which previously defeated the Eagles 5-0, 2-1 and 1-0.

East Lake coach Raleigh Daves said winning a district title was one of his team's goals before the season started. He doesn't see any letdown at this point.

Palm Harbor U., which reached the state finals last year, had 21 shots on goal in its win over Clearwater. Annie Stalzer had two goals and four assists to lead the effort.

Courtney Whidden and Kelly Brinkman both chipped in two goals and Megan Eby scored the seventh.

Monica Lee picked up the shutout in net, but never recorded a save. The Tornadoes didn't have a shot on goal.

Coach John Planamenta credited ball control.

"That's one of the things I try to stress with the girls," he said. "It was a good game. They played the way we've talked about it. They controlled possession."

6A-7: St. Petersburg to meet Sickles in title game

NEW PORT RICHEY - Deflated, exhausted, and low on able legs, Gaither scored twice on defending champion Sickles in the late minutes to ease the pain of their 6-2 loss in the late semifinal game at Mitchell.

St. Petersburg cleanly took care of Countryside 5-0 in the early semifinal.

After their 120-minute win over Mitchell on Tuesday, the Cowboys went down 3-0 by halftime on Wednesday, with no help from Gaither-transfer Kaely Roth, who scored her first of two goals before intermission. Sara Locklear and Angie Torres both scored before that.

"We knew what Gaither was really capable of. If you let them come out and win, they will," said Sickles coach George Arroyo, who has the Gryphons (12-2-0) back on the same playoff road as last year's state semifinal team. "Obviously, Kaely was pumped for this one."

Melanie Raimo made three saves for Sickles, and besides the two goals from Gaither's Jo Dragotta and Sam Meek in the game's last 20 minutes, the ball was played mostly on the Cowboys' (6-1-9) side. Ashley Middleton (one assist) and Mary Raimo added second-half goals, and Chelsea Wright also recorded an assist.

The Green Devils (13-0-2) needed little time as well, with a Nadira Jibrael netter three minutes into their match with the Cougars (8-1-9). Andrea Rodrigues scored back-to-back goals before halftime, with St. Petersburg leading 3-0.

"We play defensively as a team really well. We've been playing well all season long, but we play defense as a team. All 11 players are in on defense," Devils coach Rui Farias said.

Alisa Tripolino recorded another shutout in goal for St. Petersburg, which faces the only team to beat them besides Palm Harbor U. - Sickles - on Friday.

- ERIC MUSKATEVC, Times correspondent