TAMPA – A pair of goals by Joey Ltief and a pair of shutouts allowed Sickles to advance to the semifinals of the High School Soccer Classic on Monday evening, making the Gryphons the only Hillsborough country team remaining in this year’s competition.
Ltief scored twice in the first 15 minutes against Jacksonville Bolles, and the Gryphons were able to maintain their lead for a 2-0 victory against the Bulldogs to put them in position to advance in their opening game. Gryphons coach Tony Calvo said earning an early lead against Bolles was critical to his side’s success.
“That was our biggest thing,” Calvo said. “We wanted to get the goals in early against Bolles, because we had seen them play Niceville on Saturday and we figured if we could get the first goals in and then put high pressure, we would be fine.”
Stout was in excellent form in both games, making a pair of outstanding saves late against Bolles to help the Gryphons retain their lead, and then recorded a shutout against Niceville to allow Sickles to advance with a 0-0 draw. The Eagles won the ensuing shootout 4-2, but the Gryphons had already secured the point they needed to face New Orleans Jesuit in the quarterfinals at noon on Tuesday.
“He’s is a very big asset on the team,” Ltief said of Stout. “Obviously no one player can win it all, but having Brandon in goal, that’s obviously a plus, keeping us in the game.”
Now the Gryphons get a chance to unseat the No.6 Blue Jays, who advanced to the quarterfinals with a shootout victory after a 0-0 draw against Fort Myers Bishop Verot on Monday afternoon. Calvo said his side was looking forward to the challenge of facing such a highly-regarded squad.
“It’s going to be another challenge for us,” Calvo said. “This whole tournament has been tough, but I think it’s going to be a good game for us.”