TAMPA – Palm Harbor’s Ben Sweat helped get his team off to a good start at the High School Soccer Classic at the Ed Radice Sports Complex as his second-half goal gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 victory against Lake Mary in an entertaining clash on Saturday evening.
Sweat scored in the 60th minute, latching onto a long clearance from goalkeeper Joshua Paul before firing home low past the goalkeeper. That it took so long for either side to score was surprising, for both teams has good opportunities to break the deadlock before Sweat finally did, but Palm Harbor coach Alex Delgado was very happy it was his side that had come out on top.
“We definitely ducked some chances on their part in the first half, and as soon as we scored, there was a great opportunity for them,” Delgado said. “But I told (my players), it seemed like they had exhausted themselves in the first half to get that first goal … They didn’t put their chances away tonight, and a great ball by Josh, our keeper, put Ben in, and he put it away.”
Land O’ Lakes also took victory in its opening game, a first half goal by Tim Falcon proving enough for the Gators to earn a 1-0 victory against Monteverde Academy. Land O’ Lakes coach Mark Pearson was very happy with his side’s performance, especially in the defensive end where the Gators only allowed three shots on goal.
“We played very well,” Pearson said. “It was a great team effort, the kids played fantastic. We knew what to look for coming into the game, and we did everything that we wanted to do. We were unfortunate not to grab another couple of goals late on the counter-attack, but we did everything right for the first game.”
The same could not be said of Gaither, who went behind in a poor first half against Orlando Bishop Moore, and were unable to break down the Hornets tight defense in falling 1-0. Cowboys coach Eris Sims said adjusting from the small high school fields his side had played on throughout this season to the more conventionally-sized pitches at the Radice Complex was an adjustment his side had struggled with.
“It was a fair result, I thought they were a good side, and they deserved to win,” Sims said. “When they play on the small fields in Hillsborough County, you don’t have to run far before the ball's going out of bounds. It was an adjustment we weren’t able to make, I just hope we play better on Monday.”
Seminole also fell, a hat trick by Melbourne’s Ryan Price in the final 20 minutes of the game giving the Bulldogs a 3-0 victory. Melbourne had started the better of the two sides, Price having a volley well saved and hitting the post with another first half effort, but as the game wore on the Warhawks began to come into the game more against the defending Class 6A champions.
In the end, though, Price’s speed and the timing of his runs to beat the Seminole offside trap proved decisive.
“He was the difference in this game, in my opinion,” Seminole coach Rick Masi said. “I thought it was a pretty good game up until that point, but as I was just telling the boys I thought after the second goal we caved in.”
Countryside also fell on a late goal to Orangewood Christian, the Rams earning a 2-1 victory, putting a place for the Cougars in the quarterfinals a long way away.