Sports Editor

Harmony's girls, Celebration's boys among top seeds at District 5A-9 tournament, as they look to defend their titles

Celebration’s boys and Harmony’s girls will attempt to defend their District 5A-9 soccer championships next week, and based on their play this season they are favorites to do it.

Both will be the top seed when the tournaments start in earnest in Monday’s quarterfinals, hosted by the higher seeds.

Wednesday’s semifinals (5 and 7 p.m.) and Friday’s championships (7 p.m.) will be at Celebration (boys) and St. Cloud (girls).

The Lady Longhorns (13-0-4) prepped for the tournament with 5-0 win Tuesday over Olympia. Harmony went 6-0-2 in regular-season 5A-9, giving up goals for the first time to district foes in nearly three seasons, and as the No. 2 seed will host No. 7 Haines City. The Longhorns defeated the Hornets, 8-0, in the regular season.

St. Cloud (9-3-2), seeded third, open with Celebration on Monday. The Bulldogs took the regular-season game 7-0.

SC GS goalie Krystal Cruz-Torres

St. Cloud goalie Krystal Cruz-Torres, seen here making a stop in the Bulldogs' 1-1 regular-season tie against Harmony, will be counted on for the team to win a district title next week. A rematch of No. 3 seeded St. Cloud and No. 2 Harmony is possible in a District 5A-9 semifinal.

Those winners will meet Wednesday; a Harmony-St. Cloud semifinal is anticipated and should be looked forward to. The teams played to a tight, rough-and-tumble 1-1 draw on Jan. 16.

“When that game ended, I told (St. Cloud Coach Shawn) Beck that we’d see them again in the playoffs,” HHS Coach Scott Marlega said.

Beck called Harmony “always a tough matchup.”

“We finally chinked their armor with a goal when we played, and it came in the flow of play,” he said.

Where Harmony has gotten offense from 15 different players, St. Cloud features a quick transition game powered by midfielders Anisha Neff, Elise Schmidt, Leilani We and defensive midfielder Zabrina Hellmer. Goalie Krystal Cruz-Torres effectively stood on her head in the regular-season Harmony game and will be called to again for the Bulldogs to win its first district title since 2004.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 5 Tohopekaliga (5-7) appears in its first soccer district tournament, and will travel to Lakeland Monday to face George Jenkins (8-4-2), to whom the Tigers lost a tight 3-2 regular season game.

Ridge (18-3-1) is the tournament’s top seed, and will play the winner from Friday night’s play-in game between No. 8 Gateway and No. 9 Osceola on Monday, and get the Toho-Jenkins winner on Wednesday.

On the boys side, Celebration (15-1-2) rolled through the district undefeated for the second straight year and is the No. 1 seed. The Storm will play the winner from Friday night’s play-in game between Osceola and St. Cloud.

Celebration parlayed a district title into a run to the Class 5A state semifinals, and Storm Coach Chad Boudreaux said his team is mentally prepared for that grind again.

“I know we are focused mentally with our goals still in front of us,” he said. “Last year we had the same mentality and we were able to go for a great ride. This year it feels the same but it is the playoffs.  If you make one mistake things can go from good to really bad in a hurry.  Especially in the district we play in, we all know each other really well and somebody can shock the world.”