MELBOURNE — The Tampa Bay area’s last chance at a girls soccer state championship slipped away Friday night.
Previously unbeaten Palm Harbor University (17-1-4) couldn’t answer Vero Beach’s penalty-kick goal in the 31st minute, losing 1-0 in the Class 5A state semifinal match.
“Once they got the penalty, it’s always hard to regroup,” PHU coach John Planamenta said. “(Vero Beach) attacks so well with numbers. We tried to catch them on a counterattack but we couldn’t generate the support.”
Officials awarded the Indians’ Meagan Notargiacomo the PK after becoming tangled up with a Hurricanes defender. The senior then went top-shelf to beat Palm Harbor University goalkeeper Rachel Taylor for the evening’s only goal.
Although Vero Beach (20-3-1) created more opportunities throughout Friday night’s match, PHU was not devoid of quality looks.
Senior Katie Im nearly lit the scoreboard in the sixth minute but her shot in the middle of the Indians’ box sailed wide right.
Less than seven minutes after Vero Beach’s PK, sisters Kayla and Alexis Mouton equalizer attempts were thwarted by keeper Nikki Illare.
Friday was the second time in four years Vero Beach ended PHU’s season. The Indians beat the Canes in the Class 6A region final in 2011.
PHU’s 10th state final four appearance might have ended prematurely, Planamenta said, but that shouldn’t diminish this season’s accomplishments.
“I’m proud of the girls,” he said. “Unfortunately this is their first loss, but they played well.
“It’s a huge accomplishment getting back here and when you make it to the final four you’re going to face strong teams.”