Girls soccer: Palm Harbor University wins inaugural Champions League title

Palm Harbor University won the inaugural Champions League for area girls soccer, beating Tampa Catholic 6-0 in the final. 

The bay area version of the Champions League is based on the popular tournament for professional club teams in Europe. The local event features the top high school girls soccer teams from the Tampa Bay area in a tournament at the start of the season. 

The undefeated Hurricanes were considered one of the best locally. They were ranked 19th nationally by MaxPreps thanks to a suffocating defense that allowed just three goals all season entering this past weekend’s final four matches.  And they are likely to move up the national rankings after their championship match win over the Crusaders, who were ranked 13th nationally.

PHU kept its perfect record intact with a dominating performance, outscoring Land O’ Lakes in the semifinals and Tampa Catholic in the final by a combined 8-1. 

In the 2-1 semifinal victory over the Gators, Lindsey Nicholson scored both of the Hurricanes’ goals off assists from Kassie Fragale and Makenna Egan. Land O’ Lakes’ lone goal was scored by Eve Garrett off an assist by Wesley Craven. 

Against the Crusaders in the final, Fragale and Alyssa Tutas each scored twice and Ayva Scalese and Crosby Nicholson each scored once to lead PHU. Lindsey Nicholson assisted on three of those goals. 

Keely Cash also made a save and recorded the shutout for the Hurricanes. 

The MVP award went to the Hurricanes’ Payton Porter, a midfielder who not only helped direct PHU’s timely offense and stingy defense.  

The tournament also has started a scholarship program called the Peek Family 12th Man Award, which gives $2,500 to the winner.

Each team in the Champions League submitted a candidate – someone who is “the heart and soul of their team.”  It did not have to be a starter.  A panel of coaches representing the three-county area selected the winner.

Durant’s Katlyn Levasseur was the inaugural girls’ recipient.