LUTZ – Steinbrenner boys soccer coach Chad Ebright was expecting his side’s game against Jesuit to be a measuring stick as to where his side was in its first season.
After the opening minute, the Warriors weren’t measuring up well, going behind to a goal by the Tigers’ Michael Cadavid.
“I’m thinking that the wheels can come off the cart very easily,” Ebright said of the start to the game.
But while the Tigers continued to press forward, the Warriors held strong defensively and a pair of goals by freshman Oli Ortiz, his second coming with eight minutes to go, gave Steinbrenner a 2-1 victory and the No.1 seed for the Class 4A-District 9 tournament.
Gaining confidence as the second half went on, Ortiz picked up a pass down the right from Logan Siben 40 yards out, and attacked his defender one-on-one. Ortiz then feinted to go left before cutting onto his right foot and curling a beautiful shot into the net from 20 yards out for his ninth of the season.
“My dad taught me that,” Ortiz said. “Make him go (left), then cutting him back and taking a shot.”
Ortiz produced just as good a finish in the 13th minute to get the Warriors back on even terms, running onto a pass from Philip Jorge before chipping his shot over the advancing goalkeeper into the vacant net.
Jesuit almost retook the lead a minute later, but the Warriors were able to clear the ball to safety after a scramble in their penalty area. Tiger midfielder Stephen Gathman then went close, his flicked header going just wide off a corner, and Brett Durrance saw his deflected shot go just wide as the Tigers had the better of the play in the first half.
That didn’t prevent the Warriors from carving out chances of their own, though, and Davi Martins had his shot well saved after he controlled a header by Ortiz in the penalty area before weaving past a pair of defenders to create an opening.
The Tigers then missed a pair of golden opportunities to take the lead, one coming either side of halftime. Six minutes before the break a low cross from the left was spooned over the crossbar by Chris Conlon from close-range, and then two minutes into the second half Tyler Hartlage shot high from eight yards out with the goal at his mercy after an excellent low cross by Durrance. Jesuit coach Bob Bauman was disappointed with the lack of finishing and with the effort from his side.
“I think the biggest thing was that we didn’t show up,” Bauman said. “We scored a goal and we let up and we never got back in the game. Once they scored, it got their confidence up and we missed our chances early in the second half and they took their chance late in the second half. You’ve got to hand it to them, they were two terrific goals, two stunning goals, but they came from mistakes we made.”
As disappointed as the Tigers were, the Warriors were elated, the entire bench rushing onto the field at the final whistle to celebrate completing a perfect 8-0-0 run through their district schedule. Ebright said getting the No.1 seed for the district tournament was an important step, as it should provide an easier path to a district title, and the region tournament.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to become the No.1 seed in the district, that was our early goal,” Ebright said. “I’m proud of the boys, I’m proud of the way we played, and we came out here to do a job, and that’s what we did. We say it every day in practice, we’re here to do a job, and that’s what we got done tonight. We came out here against a very talented team, and we played very well.”