Plenty of Pinellas County soccer programs, both boys and girls, knew they had a good chance to keep playing beyond district tournaments last week.
Sunday afternoon brought confirmation. The Florida High School Athletic Association released all 12 regional brackets and Pinellas County schools can be found all over. In fact, the only classification devoid of a boys or girls school from the peninsula is the Class 7A boys field. Class 5A and 2A boys brackets both will begin with four Pinellas programs when region quarterfinal matches kick off Wednesday.
Pinellas’ total haul of postseason qualifiers is 24 – 12 boys and 12 girls. Specific to North County, the girls are leading the way with seven contenders: Palm Harbor University, East Lake, Countryside, Dunedin, Tarpon Springs, Clearwater Central Catholic and Calvary Christian. The four North County boys programs advancing are East Lake, Countryside, Tarpon Springs and Calvary Christian.
The girls will kick regional play off with regional quarterfinal matches Tuesday, followed by the semifinals on Friday and region finals on Feb. 18. The boys schedule is quarterfinals on Wednesday, semifinals on Saturday and region finals on Feb. 19.
Of the 12 girls programs preparing for regionals, five enter as district champions: St. Petersburg (6A), Countryside and Osceola (5A), Dunedin (4A) and Shorecrest (2A).
The Dunedin girls beat North County rival Tarpon Springs last week 3-1 to claim their first district title in 25 years. The Falcons (8-7-1) get to host Cape Coral Mariner (12-6-2). Based on their end-of-season MaxPreps.com ranking, the Spongers (9-5-1) are also in as the Region 4A-2 seventh seed and will head to No. 2 Wesley Chapel (18-3).
Countryside (10-5-1) was able to beat River Ridge (14-7-3) in PKs Friday night to win districts for the second time in three years. The FHSAA’s new playoff format sets up a Tuesday rematch at Countryside.
East Lake and PHU, North County’s top programs over the past couple decades, both enter the 2020 postseason as at-large bids in their respective classifications.
East Lake (15-5-1) was unable to top Wiregrass Ranch in the District 6A-5 title game and is Region 6A-2’s top at-large qualifier. At No. 5, the Eagles must head to Fort Myers (16-2-4).
Reigning state champ PHU (14-4-2) fell in the District 7A-7 title against Plant and travel to No. 3 Windermere (14-2-2) as the region’s sixth seed.
Neither CCC (11-8-1) or Calvary Christian (7-8-2) were able to reach the District 3A-7 tournament final, but both advance based on regional rankings. No. 6 CCC travels to No. 3 The Villages (9-3-2) and the No. 8 Warriors must take on No. 1 Academy of the Holy Names, ranked fourth in the state and the nation, according to MaxPreps.com.
Pinellas County’s other girls at-large postseason qualifiers are Largo (6A) and Indian Rocks Christian (2A).
Four Pinellas County boys programs lifted district championship hardware last week: Seminole and Countryside (5A), Tarpon Springs (4A) and Shorecrest (2A).
Countryside (8-8-4) pulled off winning the wide-open District 5A-9 championship as the No. 4 seed. The Cougars beat Gulf in the quarterfinals, No. 1 River Ridge in the semis and rival Clearwater in PKs for the title. Winning the league was the only way any 5A-9 team could advance and Countryside made it happen. The No. 4 Cougars will host No. 5 Naples Lely (19-5-2).
Tarpon Springs (7-6-1) hasn’t reached regional play since 2013-14 and is only three years removed from a two-win season. The Spongers upset top-seeded Lakewood 2-0 in the district finals and are now league champs. As the No. 4 seed, they’ll host No. 5 LaBelle (14-4-3).
East Lake entered the District 6A-5 tournament as the No. 4 seed and nearly upset top-seeded and nationally ranked Wiregrass Ranch in the semifinals before falling 1-0 in double overtime. Wiregrass Ranch was knocked off the following night, however, by league champ Mitchell. The district was Class 6A’s deepest and sent four teams into regionals. No. 7 East Lake (10-6-1) gets a short road trip Wednesday when it heads to nearby No. 2 Mitchell (16-5-4).
Calvary Christian (11-8-5) knew it was moving on as along as big-time upsets occurred during the District 3A-6 tournament. The Warriors lost in the District 3A-7 title match to top-seeded Tampa Catholic, 3-0, and qualified for regionals as the No. 8 seed. That placement, however, sets up a district final rematch with the No. 1 Crusaders (19-1-2).
Pinellas County’s other boys at-large postseason qualifiers are Osceola and Northeast (5A), Lakewood (4A) and Indian Rocks Christian, Keswick Christian and Admiral Farragut (2A).