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'Canes blank Bulls for third state title

Second-half goals by Annie Stalzer and Kelly Brinkman lift the 'Canes past the Bulls 2-0.

By KEITH NIEBUHR
Published February 10, 2006


FORT LAUDERDALE - One day after stunning the nation's top-ranked team, Palm Harbor U. claimed an even bigger victory.

And this one comes with a ring.

Behind solid play on both ends, the Hurricanes defeated Bloomingdale 2-0 in the Class 5A final at Lockhart Stadium on Thursday night to complete two days in South Florida the players aren't soon to forget. Annie Stalzer's goal in the 48th minute gave PHU the lead. And Kelly Brinkman added a score in the 78th minute that iced it.

When the game ended, PHU players raced toward the sideline to celebrate with fans. After accepting their gold medals and the championship trophy, they took a team picture. Many then called friends and relatives on their cell phones to give them the news.

"We've been playing so well," Stalzer said. "This is the perfect season! We couldn't ask for anything better."

The title is the third for PHU (20-1), which also earned championships in 1999 and 2000.

The Hurricanes lost to Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas 3-0 in last season's final, but this time, the Hurricanes weren't to be denied. Since the start of its district tournament (a span of seven games), PHU outscored opponents 24-2. And it beat Aquinas 2-1 in the semifinals.

"The experience of being here helped," Hurricanes coach John Planamenta said. "Every year, we've taken another step."

Bloomingdale (24-2-1), going for its second title, had allowed 10 goals all season before Thursday. Only once had an opponent scored more than one. In the playoffs, just one of the Bulls' previous opponents found the net. That was Orange Park Fleming Island, which Bloomingdale crushed 4-1 on Wednesday.

"They played a great game," Bloomingdale coach Sue Peet said of PHU.

PHU outshot Bloomingdale 16-4 (the Bulls had two shots in the first 75 minutes) and made sure it had two or three defenders around star midfielder Marissa Kazbour at all times. Kazbour scored twice against Fleming Island but was limited to two shots Thursday.

"They're a solid team," Kazbour said. "We just didn't create any great chances. We couldn't find the final pass. But we fought hard. Sometimes, it just goes that way."

PHU was equally solid on offense. But though the Hurricanes constantly pressured Bloomingdale's defense, they couldn't break a scoreless tie until Stalzer's goal, which bounced off one defender and over the head of goalkeeper Cristina Coca.

"That was big," Stalzer said. "It really gave us a little more confidence."