Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pinellas rosters for Senior Challenge released

The rosters for the Pinellas County boys and girls team for the Senior Soccer Challenge to be held at Countryside on March 6 have been announced, with a number of the players who competed at the state championships over the past two weeks included in both squads.

South Florida signees Javon Bostic, Ben Sweat and Shane Wixted will be on show for the boys squad, while Palm Harbor University’s girls state final team will have five players represented.

The complete squads are listed below.


GOALKEEPERS: Andrew Hindman, Dunedin; Josh Paul, Palm Harbor.

DEFENDERS: Javon Bostic, East Lake; Dominic Gianfrancesco, Osceola; John Holecek, St. Petersburg; Brent Merrick, East Lake; Troy Pruitt, Northeast; Sean Rafferty, Seminole.

MIDFIELDERS: Jordan Beau, Clearwater; Troy Cobb, Seminole; Peter Cundiff, Osceola; Hamza Elotmani, Lakewood; Matt Kimball, East Lake; P.J. McDonald, Palm Harbor; Brice Nardozzi, Indian Rocks Christian; Josh Phillippi, Northeast; Ben Sweat, Palm Harbor; Shane Wixted, Seminole.

FORWARDS: Anthony Brenner, Dunedin; Nick Patterson, East Lake; Matt Thompson, Admiral Farragut; Billy Vasquez, Pinellas Park.


GOALKEEPERS: Kim Cohn, Countryside; Casey Merson, Seminole.

DEFENDERS: Colleen Lynch, Palm Harbor; Cina Salemi, Palm Harbor; Christy Rickrode, Dunedin; Maryah Finch, Tarpon Springs; Shannon Walisch, Palm Harbor, Lauren Grove, St. Petersburg.

MIDFIELDERS: Casey McKeon, St. Petersburg Catholic; Thea Linkfield, Countryside; Julia Bosacki, Clearwater; Kendall Narum, Countryside; Stephanie Ferro, East Lake; Noel Forsman, Seminole; Nicole Carter, St. Petersburg.

FORWARDS: Jensen Eifert, Indian Rocks Christian; Tatiana Perez, East Lake; Megan Lawrence, Seminole; Ronnica Harris, Largo; Catherine Brinkman, Palm Harbor; Zoe Lombard, Palm Harbor; Jolie Annichiarico, Clearwater Central Catholic; Kelsey Dougherty-Howard, St. Petersburg Catholic.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hillsborough Boys squad announced for Senior Challenge

The Hillsborough boys squad for the Senior Soccer Challenge to be held at Countryside High on March 6 has been announced, with 17 different schools being represented among the 23 players and two alternates selected for this year’s game.

Sickles leads the roster with four players selected, while Class 2A state champions Tampa Prep will be represented by Wes Sever and Anthony Baumann in the game against the Pinellas All-Stars.

The full squad, to be coaches by Wharton's Scott Ware and Gaither's Eric Sims, is listed below.

Goalkeepers: Brandon Stout, Sickles; Derrick Miranda, East Bay

Defenders: Gil Davis, Sickles; David Campbell, Wharton; Josh Santos, Gaither; Ben Wiley, Sickles; Brendan McCarron, Tampa Catholic; C.R. Lewis, King.

Midfielders: Boris Simeunovic, Sickles; Ellis Curry, Freedom; Luis Rodriguez, Leto; Steven Scrivens, King; Jesus Torres, Armwood; Jake Felman, Berkeley Prep.

Forwards: Billy Fanning, Durant; Miguel Cadavid, Jesuit; T.J. Roehn, Berkeley Prep; Steven Gonzalez, Newsome; Esgar Montelongo, Plant City; Anthony Baumann, Tampa Prep; Wes Sever, Tampa Prep; David Castillo, East Bay.

Alternates: M Brad Keefe, Brandon; F Fedson Hilaire, Middleton.

Tribune girls soccer correspondent Jarrett Guthrie has details of the girls roster, announced last week. That squad can be found here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rowdies to unveil uniforms, preseason schedule Wednesday

The FC Tampa Bay Rowdies will unveil their uniforms for the team’s inaugural season, and the remainder of the clubs preseason schedule, at a press conference to be held on Wednesday at 10 a.m. the club said in a statement issued on Tuesday morning.

At the second player combine, held in Liverpool, England, late last year, the side was outfitted by Under Armor in its scrimmage against Wrexham, but it is unclear if that partnership will carry over to the regular season.

The first three of the Rowdies preseason games became public last week, with games against the University of Tampa, FC Dallas and the Philadelphia Union all slated to be played at Pepin Stadium. The Rowdies had previous said they expected to have five or six preseason games in all.

The Rowdies are also appearing to step up their visibility efforts within the soccer community. After an autograph session with Pascal Milien, Adam Nowland and Joe Donoho at the BAYSL Fields in Brandon on Saturday, the club confirmed it will have a presence just inside the entrance gate at Wednesday night’s United States vs. El Salvador game at Raymond James Stadium.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Preps: Tampa Prep takes Class 2A Championship

It was a remarkable night for Tampa Prep's boys, and the massive crowd they brought with them to the University of Tampa's Pepin Stadium on Friday night.

For the third time in four years, and fourth time overall, the Terrapins earned the Class 2A State championship with a 2-1 victory against Delray Beach American Heritage.

Wes Sever's words just after charging around the Pepin Stadium field with the 2A trophy in the grasp exemplified the exhiliration the entire side appeared to be feeling.

"This is exhilarating. Amazing. Now I know what Matt Hebert, Sam Wiand the seniors my freshman year, and in my sophomore year Ryan Griffin, Brad Sienkiewicz, this is what it feels like to win your senior year. Never would I have thought we would have been back on this stage in front of our home crowd to beat a team like American Heritage tonight. It's absolutely exhilarating.

"I can't explain to you in words how much this means to me, how much this team means to me, how much the Tampa Prep community (means to me), and having all these fans here tonight, it's absolutely amazing. Words can't describe what I'm feeling right now, what I feel for these players, what I feel for these coaches, what I feel for the administration. Everyone in the school, I love it, they were behind 100 percent of the way. We brought our entire school out here, and for the semifinals, it's just absolutely amazing."

That gives two bay area teams state championships, with Seminole and Palm Harbor looking to add to the haul this afternoon and evening as they face Melbourne and Boca Raton respectively in the Class 5A and Class 6A finals.

Seminole earned its place in the final with a 1-0 victory against Tallahassee Lincoln, Shane Wixted scoring on a penalty in the final minute of the first half after Charles Lynch had been brought down in the area.

Palm Harbor will get a shot at a second straight state title, duplicating the accomplishment of their girls team last week, after a 2-1 victory against Miami Killian that turned on a brilliant save by Hurricanes goalkeeper Josh Paul and a brilliant solo goal by Ben Sweat, both coming with a span of about 80 seconds.

If you can't get to Pepin Stadium this afternoon or this evening, Seminole is schedule to kick off at 4:30 p.m., Palm Harbor at 7 p.m., you can follow live updates of both games via the TBSB twitter feed, which can be found at

Friday, February 19, 2010

Preps: Western Conference Teams announced

The Boys and Girls Western Conference Soccer teams have been announced, with Boys coaches Chris Lewis of King, Tony Calvo of Sickles and Neal Rickmers of Newsome being named their respective divisions Coaches of the Year.

Steve McGill of Plant, Chris Hinkle of Freedom and Kelly Townsend of Newsome earned the girls coaches of the year awards on the girls sides.


National Division, First Team: GK Chris Garcia, King; D C.R. Lewis, King; D David Campbell, Wharton; M Juan Arango, Wharton; M Steven Scrivens, King; M Jesus Torres, Armwood; M Daniel Barboto, Hillsborough; M Ellis Curry, Freedom; M Elliot Toledo, Freedom; M Alex Noble, Wharton; F Fedson Hilaire, Middleton.

Second Team: GK Keenan Kushner, Wharton; D Joey Soto, Freedom; D Stephen Brock, Hillsborough; D Jake Bakes, King; M Mazeed Aro-Lambo, Strawberry Crest; M Noah Schaffer, Strawberry Crest; M Alex Stickley, Wharton; F Josh Davis, King; F Taylor Nalls, Freedom; F Connor Dozark, Wharton; F Kofi Forkuoh, Hillsborough.

American Division, First Team: GK Brandon Stout, Sickles; D Gil Davis, Sickles; D Josh Santos, Gaither; D Jay Rivera, Alonso; D Winston Lightbody, Blake; M Luis Rodriguez, Leto; M Philip Jorge, Steinbrenner; M Boris Simeunovic, Sickles; F Jordan See, Gaither; F Kody Thomas, Robinson; F Josh Munch, Plant.

Second Team: GK John Nardozzi, Gaither; D Zac Steuer, Robinson; D Ben Wiley, Sickles; M Michael Bajza, Sickles; M Danny Johnson, Plant; M Charlie Delmar, Gaither; M Anthony Melatti, Steinbrenner; F Zach Wheeler, Gaither; F Jesse Dickerson, Leto; F Oliver Ortiz, Steinbrenner; F Jonathon Thomas, Alonso.

Federal Division, First Team: GK Derrick Miranda, East Bay; D Paul Snyder, Bloomingdale; D Matt Encinoza, Riverview; D Jose Galarza, Lennard; M Patrick Hacker, Newsome; M Miguel Cerveleon, East Bay; M Joey Perfetto, Newsome; F Billy Fanning, Durant; F Tevin Gage, Bloomingdale; F Steven Gonzalez, Newsome; F Carlos Galeano, Newsome.

Second Team: GK Jamie Shepard, Newsome; D Michael La Greca, Newsome; D Cesar Rodriguez, Lennard; M Andrew Clare, Riverview; M Andres Plata, Durant; M James Brown, Spoto; M Will Coates, Riverview; M Jacob Brumbeloe, Durant; M Armani Alicea, Newsome; F Joey Sanchez, Bloomingdale; F Alejandro Chavez, Lennard.


National Division, First Team: GK Emily Ball, Freedom; D Gabbie Peek, Freedom; D Elena Madrazo, Chamberlain; D Emily Crawford, Hillsborough; D Jasmine Jameson, Hillsborough; D Emily Belanger, Wharton; M Olivia Bloemke, Freedom; M Alexa Morse, Hillsborough; M Emily Rodriguez, Wharton; M Fallon Vaughn, Whharton; F Shelby Million, Wharton.

Second Team: GK Amber Davis, Hillsborough; D Jaclyn Kalik, King; D Ali Diioia, Freedom; D Gail Wichman, Freedom; D Christina Lepochat, Armwood; M Jenna Stiling, Freedom; M Jessica Baumann, Freedom; M Morgan Parker, Hillsborough; M Alicia Espinoza, Hillsborough; F Megan Nelson, Hillsborough; F Cynthia Re, Tampa Bay Tech.

American Division, First Team: GK Lauryn Bodden, Plant; D Sarah Moyer, Sickles; D Sydney Sivitz, Sickles; D Amy Werdine, Plant; M Alexis Bredeau, Steinbrenner; M Lauren Moore, Gaither; F CiCi Gonzalez, Steinbrenner; F Taylor Valley, Steinbrenner; F Raquel Hill, Robinson; F Connor Zwetsch, Plant; F Ashley Acco, Gaither.

Second Team: GK Kimberly Rios, Leto; D Elena Atenza, Alonso; D Carly Keene, Steinbrenner; D Jordan Laughlin, Gaither; M Molly Ganther, Plant; M Ellen Moore, Plant; M Kaylee Cunningham, Robinson; M Diana Rosquette, Sickles; F Caroline Bado, Plant; F Madison Henriquez, Gaither.

Federal Division, First Team: GK Megan Fox, Durant; D Meghan Lanteigne, Bloomingdale; D Isabel Vazquez, East Bay; D Jackie Simpson, Newsome; M Jordan Johnson, Bloomingdale; M Nikki Peet, Bloomingdale; M Olivia Clare, Riverview; M Karina Gutsche, Newsome; M Caroline Evers, Newsome; M Nicole Grinnell, Durant; F Brittany Cox, East Bay.

Second Team: GK Ebony Campbell, Riverview; D Shaylyn Corgan, Durant; D Rebecca Oser, Bloomingdale, D Devon Marshall, Spoto; M Natalie Preston, East Bay; M Shea Rhoney, Newsome; M Christy Fatiero, Durant; M Kara Buono, Bloomingdale; F Liz Haumschild, Newsome; F Taylor De Caire, Newsome; F Delaney Poli, East Bay.

Preps: Mitchell earns state championship

The chant began before the Mitchell High players had received their medals.

"S-R-A, S-R-A, S-R-A", they shouted towards the administrators on the sideline.

S-R-A? School Related Absence.

The Mustangs probably do deserve the day off after winning the first Boys Soccer State Title in Pasco County history, a 1-0 victory against Jacksonville Stanton Prep on Thursday night giving the Mustangs the title.

Jason Leslie scored the only goal, banging in the rebound after Max Rockwell's penalty was saved by Stanton goalkeeper Ryan O'Farrell.

Tampa Prep will try to earn its third state title in four seasons, and fourth overall, when it faces defending Class 2A state champion Delray Beach American Heritage on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

The Terrapins swept past Tallahassee Maclay on Thursday afternoon, Jake Peterson, Wes Sever and Anthony Baumann all finding the net in the first half of a 3-1 victory. The Terrapins will need to put that first half effort in for the full 80 minutes against the Stallions, though, who were very impressive in a 5-2 victory against Orangewood Christian in the other semifinal.

If you can't make it to Pepin Stadium for tonight's game, will again be webcasting the game as it happens this evening from 7:15 p.m.

Before the Terrapins take the field for a shot at a championship, both Seminole and Palm Harbor University will try to reach their respective state finals in Class 5A and 6A.

Bryan Burns of the St. Petersburg Times tracks the path both teams have travelled to reach this point of the season.

For those of you who can't make the Warhawks game against Auburndale at 12:45 p.m. or Palm Harbor's game against Miami Killian, the TBSB will be tweeting both games live.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Preps: Mitchell moves on, Tampa Prep on deck

Mitchell got a huge left from goalkeeper Josh Berres on Wenesday night, as a crucial save in the 95th minute, midway through the second overtime, and then a pair of stops in a penalty shootout allowed the Mustangs to advance to the first boys soccer state championship game in school history with a 3-1 shootout victory after it had played Pembroke Pines Charter to a 0-0 tie through 100 minutes of regulation and overtime.

The Tampa Tribune's Mike Camunas writes that at the beginning of the season, Berres wasn't a sure thing to be the Mustangs' goalkeeper, with Coach Oscar Ubillus selecting him over Robbie Wallace, now a starting defender for the side. The St. Petersburg Times' Izzy Gould references Berres new nickname "Spider Monkey" and the brilliant manner in which Berres made his stops, including pulling the Mustangs back into the shootout with a second round save after his side trailed 1-0 after the opening round of shots.

The Mustangs will face Jacksonville Stanton Prep in Thursday night's final, the Blue Devils also needing a shootout to defeat Palmetto 4-1 after a 0-0 tie through regulation and overtime. As the Florida Times-Union's Francine King writes, winning shootouts has become a habit for the Blue Devils.

If you can't get to Pepin Stadium for tonight's game, will be broadcasting a live gamecast of all the action, which can be found here.

Earlier on Thursday, Tampa Prep will aim to reach the Class 2A state final as it faces Tallahassee Maclay at 12:45 p.m. As I wrote for this morning's Tribune, the turnaround to the Terrapins' season came at just the right moment, with the side appearing to be playing its best soccer of the season as it enters the final four.

As with Mitchell's game later in the day, will be providing a gamecast of the Terrapins match against the Marauders, which can be found here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Preps: Girls Finals Wrap, Mitchell boys look for success

After having seen both Berkeley Prep and Seminole fall, the Bucs in a shootout and the Warhawks in overtime, Palm Harbor earned the Tampa Bay area its only state title of the girls final four weekend on Saturday night.

Kelly Phipps' overtime goal proved the difference in a 1-0 victory against West Boca Raton, and as The St. Petersburg Times' John C. Cotey writes, the Hurricanes exceeded expectations.

The Buccaneers had earlier come a goalline away from picking up their first state title, an overtime chance for Sam Newhaller being cleared off the line as it appeared Berkeley was going to be rewarded for a strong game against Plantation American Heritage.

Instead, the Buccaneers fell 1-0 in a penalty shootout, giving the Patriots their second straight Class 3A title, and sixth since 2000.

Seminole's loss was almost as agonizing. After being reduced to 10 men early in the second half, the Warkhawks fought tooth and nail against ESPN Rise No.1 Melbourne only for Kristin Grubka to grab a 2-1 victory for the Bulldogs with a goal early in overtime.

With that victory, and the 25-0 perfect season, Melbourne was named ESPN Rise's Winter National Champion on Tuesday. The Bulldogs were, understandably, thrilled to have competed a second straight undefeated season, and took a moment to reflect on what a remarkable run they had embarked on the past two seasons.

Now, the boys championships are upon us, and Mitchell opens up play for the four bay area schools tonight when the Mustangs face Pembroke Pines Charter this evening at 5 p.m.

According to the Times' Izzy Gould, Mustangs coach Oscar Ubillus encouraged his players to visit Pepin Stadium last season for the boys final four, and last week for the girls, to help them envision what it would be like to be there themselves. The Tampa Tribune's Mike Camunas details the work the Mustangs have put in, with two-a-day practices in preparation for tonight's game.

Those of you who can't make the game, will be broadcasting live from Pepin Stadium tonight, and you can follow the play-by-play from 4:45 p.m. here.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Preps: Tampa Prep girls fall short; Tough night for Hillsborough County boys

Tampa Prep’s hopes of a second state title were dashed on Friday night as the Terrapins were never able to find their rhythm against a strong Delray Beach American Heritage side that earned a 2-0 victory for its third state title.

The Tampa Tribune’s Jarrett Guthrie details the game here.

Seminole and Palm Harbor did advance to their respective finals today, the Warhawks coming through a torrential downpour for most of the game to edge Lynn Haven Mosley 1-0 in overtime while Palm Harbor eased past Miami Lourdes 2-0.

Berkeley Prep will try to earn its first state title this morning as it faces Plantation American Heritage at 11 a.m. PAH is going for its sixth state title, all earned since 2000, and its second straight, and enters as the No.9-ranked team in the country according to ESPN Rise.

If you can’t get to Pepin Stadium, you can follow all the action here, as will be webcasting the game live.

Elsewhere, the St. Petersburg Times' Eduardo A. Encina reports that Hillsborough County is interested in keeping the State Soccer Finals in Tampa for the next two seasons. The county holds a two-year option, and Hillsborough County Athletic Director Lanness Robinson believes the tournament is "good for the community."

In boys action on Friday night, it was a tough night for Hillsborough County teams as Sickles, Newsome and Berkeley Prep all fell one step short of the final four with region final losses to Seminole, Auburndale and Fort Myers Bishop Verot respectively.

Newsome was unlucky not to reach its first final four in a 3-2 defeat to Auburndale, the Wolves controlling more possession and creating more chances. Unfortunately, they were unable to take advantage of their superiority where it mattered most, missing a first half penalty and having a second half goal ruled out on a close offside call, and the Bloodhounds made them pay.

Seminole played giant-killer again, defeating Sickles in a penalty shootout after the two sides had played to a 1-1 tie through regulation and overtime. After upsetting East Lake on Tuesday night, Warhawks coach Rick Masi told the Times' Joey Knight he wasn't competely sure he could explain the Warhawks playoff run.

Berkeley Prep couldn't hold on to a halftime lead against Bishop Verot, falling 2-1 to the Vikings. In a text message after the game, Buccaneers coach Tim Cooper said his side got away from its normal style of play, and paid the price for it.

That leaves Tampa Prep as the lone Hillsborough side remaining, the Terrapins’ match against Vero Beach St. Edward’s being postponed until today at 1 p.m.

In Pasco County, Mitchell reached the state final four for the first time with a 1-0 victory against Celebration. The Tribune’s Mike Camunas was at the game, and filed this report on the Mustangs remarkable run.

With Seminole already through after its shootout victory against Sickles, Palm Harbor can make it two Pinellas teams in the final four with a victory against Orlando Olympia this afternoon, the Hurricanes match being postponed on Friday night as well due to the heavy rains that swept through the state.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Preps: Gryphons, Wolves look to reach first state finals

It’s a big night for Sickles and Newsome as both schools try to advance to the state final four for the first time in either of the boys soccer programs histories.

Sickles is at home, where they have been dominant all season, to take on a surprising Seminole squad that upset East Lake 4-0 on Tuesday night. The Gryphons needed a penalty shootout to get past district rival Gaither, and will look to put in a more composed performance, getting into their passing rhythm better despite still being without key midfielder Michael Bazja, currently in Puerto Rico with the Region III Olympic Development Program.

Newsome, on the other hand, appears to have all of its mojo working as it hosts Auburndale. The Wolves pulled off a miraculous comeback against Plant City on Tuesday night, winning 4-3 in overtime after being down 3-1 with 20 minutes to go. At the center of the comeback was Steven Gonzalez, who now has hat tricks in his last two games. The Wolves will need to be at their best against the Bloodhounds, who despite only being a district runner-up are ranked No.46 in the ESPN Rise Fab 50. Their loss to Lakeland George Jenkins in the district final was the Bloodhounds first loss of the season, and they have had state title pedigree before, winning in 2005 and 2007.

For a look at Berkeley Prep, Tampa Prep and their opponents tonight, click here.

In Pasco county, Mitchell will face Celebration in the first region final in program history. The Tampa Tribune's Mike Camunas takes a look at the match-up here.

Preps: Terrapins, Buccaneers advance to state finals

It was a remarkable afternoon for Hillsborough County schools at the FHSAA Girls State Soccer Finals as both Tampa Prep and Berkeley Prep advanced to their respective state finals win convincing victories on Thursday.

The Terrapins got a pair of goals in the first 10 minutes, and were able to control the most of the game against Tallahassee Maclay in a 3-1 victory as they exuded confidence on the ball. They were also able to do an excellent job Reanna Leoni in check, Amber Miller and Isabel Dalence in particular doing an excellent job.

The Terrapins will need to put in a similar performance against Delray Beach American Heritage on Friday night if they are to claim the title, but with a big contingent of fans behind them, as there were on Thursday lunchtime, the Terrapins could win their second state title in three years.

Berkeley Prep May have been even more dominant, making Pensacola Catholic chase the ball all afternoon in a 1-0 victory on Samantha Newhaller’s early goal. The Buccaneers girls have never advanced to a state title game before in the program’s history, and with Ken Roberts now in his 30th season as the team’s head coach, it would be nice to see him claim a state championship against Plantation American Heritage on Saturday morning.

On Thursday, they were at close to their best, the passing and movement off the ball being excellent. Against the Patriots, that will likely pay dividends as American Heritage, 3-0 winners against Melbourne Central Catholic in the other semifinal, will likely not play the same defensive style that the Bucs found difficult to break down after their opening goal.

Friday’s action sees the attention switch to Pinellas County to begin, as Seminole face Lynn Haven Mosley at 12:45 p.m. in the 5A semifinals, with Palm Harbor taking on Miami Lourdes at 5;15 p.m.

The St. Petersburg Times' John C. Cotey writes that the Warhawks believe this is their year. Palm Harbor, on the other hand, has used a stingy defense that has given up only four goals in 22 games this season to reach this point.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Preps: Live Final Four coverage at

Can't make it to Pepin Stadium this afternoon to watch Tampa Prep and Berkeley Prep try to advance to the Class 2A and 3A finals respectively? If you can access a computer, has you covered.

The Tampa Tribune's website will offer live game coverage of both matches, Tampa Prep kicking off at 12:45 p.m. and Berkeley Prep at 3 p.m. Follow the links and interact with me as I host both events.

For Tampa Prep vs. Tallahasse Maclay, click here:

For Berkeley Prep vs. Pensacola Catholic, click here:

Preps: Plant's upset bid falls in overtime to Palm Harbor

Plant's boys bid to reach the Class 6A-Region 2 final came up just short on Wednesday night as Ben Sweat's overtime goal gave Palm Harbor University a 3-2 victory, sending the Hurricanes through to face Orlando Olympia in Friday's region final.

In what has been a breakout season for the Panthers, restoring some of the luster to a program that had underachieved in the past few seasons, the end was a disappointing one. That said, it appears Coach Chris Carbon has this side pointed in the right direction, and while they will lose a good amount of senior talent before next season, there should be enough returning for the Panthers to make another run at the region playoffs.

The Hurricanes, on the other hand, haven't made it easy on themselves so far, needing a penalty shootout to defeat Bloomingdale prior to Wednesday night's result. The Hurricanes, though, are a very talented team that is certainly capable of reaching the final four again after winning the Class 5A title last season.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Preps: Tampa Prep finds confidence ahead of state semifinal

TAMPA – Reaching the FHSAA State Finals is becoming a habit for Tampa Prep’s girls program, who appeared relaxed and enjoying themselves the afternoon before they face Tallahassee Maclay in the Class 2A state semifinals on Friday afternoon at 12:45 p.m.

It’s easy to understand why. After struggling for confidence through the regular season, and even for parts of the district playoffs, the Terrapins appear to have more of a bounce in their step after overcoming three good teams to advance to Pepin Stadium.

“It’s the confidence, absolutely, because they believe in themselves now,” Terrapins coach Cindy Schofield said. “It’s a lot lighter at practice, they’re having fun with it, they want to win. The ones that were here two years ago when we won it, they know what it takes, and they’re going to carry the rest of them into it.”

Maybe the biggest reason for the emergence of that confidence has been the return of central midfielder Jackie Rosenthal. Sidelined with a slight tear in her right meniscus, Rosenthal’s return for the Terrapins in the district final allowed Amber Miller to return to her more familier defensive role, and that in turn has made the Terrapins a very tough team to break down offensively.

The Terrapins know that will need to continue against a Maclay team that swept to Tampa with a 5-0 victory against Rocky Bayou Christian on Friday night. Having faced, and defeated, a side with a similar resume to Maclay in West Palm Beach King’s Academy on Friday in the region final, though, the Terrapins say they won’t be intimidated by their opponents.

“I think we respect the fact that they’re going to be a good team, everyone in the final four is a good team, but I think we have the confidence now that we can go in and play to the best of our abilities, play hard and win,” goalkeeper Jordan Hatton said.

While the Terrapins defense has been solid in their three-game run through the region, one member of the team has been surprisingly quiet. Forward Colby Maffei leads Hillsborough County with 44 goals this season, but was held scoreless in the Terrapins past two games against St. Stephen’s and King’s. That may be a good sign, though, as a player of Maffei’s quality won’t usually be held in check for too long.

“She’s dangerous at any time,” Schofield said. “The thing with Colby is the defense can focus so much on her, and you have a Caroline Cheek or Jackie Rosenthal or Alyssa Bryant who can step up and score.

“(Colby’s) just got to stay calm and not try to do it all herself, and she hasn’t done that since the beginning of the season. She’s matured and she knows to play off her teammates.”

One thing the Terrapins will be able to rely on? Massive support. The school is letting its students make the short walk across Cass Street to attend the game, meaning the Terrapins will have a big crowd behind them.

“It’ll give us a lot of confidence,” defender Lauren Knoke said of the support. “I think just coming out strong, not being intimidated, coming out fast, good possession, that’s what’s going to keep us in the game.”

Preps: Buccaneers focused on one half at a time

TAMPA – As well as his side has played, and as close as it is to its goal of a state championship, Berkeley Prep girls soccer coach Ken Roberts’ mantra always stays the same.

“One half at a time,” Roberts said. “They know what they have to do, one half at a time.”

The Buccaneers face Pensacola Catholic on Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. at the University of Tampa’s Pepin Stadium in the FHSAA Class 3A Girls State Semifinals with a couple of players carrying some bumps and bruises, but confident they can continue the run of form that has gotten them to this point. The key to that, according to Roberts, has been the performance of the Buccaneers’ midfield. The quartet of Amber Famiglietti, Becca Hurst, Danielle Manning and Megan Williams have raised their games come playoff-time, leading to three straight dominant victories in the region competition.

“The focus of our game is the movement of the ball, and that focus comes through our central midfielders, and I think both of them have lifted their games as far as the transition of play and the way we move the ball across the field,” Roberts said. “At the same time, I can look at our defensive group, as a team I think we’ve played much stronger defensive matches, having the opportunity to play with Morgan (Orobello) in goal for the last three games I think lifted the level of play of our defensive unit, and I think also the players on the offensive end have lifted their game as well.

“I think every one of them have been working on their goals and they’re setting their sights on certain things they want to accomplish before the season is over.”

Berkeley has lost in the semifinals each of the three times it has advanced to the final four before, but none of the current squad has reached this stage before. Roberts believes the biggest key to the Buccaneers advancing to Saturday’s final will be their patience, which could get tested by a Pensacola team that has been tight defensively throughout the season, and advanced to the final four with a penalty shootout victory against Jacksonville Bolles on Friday.

“I think we’re going to have to work for our opportunities,” Roberts said. “From what I can see, they’ve had a a great season, had 18 shutouts, so they haven’t given up a lot of scoring, so we’re going to need to be patient, we’re going to need to find our passes in the box to finish. Their ‘keeper has come up big for them in a number of matches as well, so it’s going to be about patience, going to be about finding the openings and finishing the opportunities we do get.”

Preps: Stout shines for Sickles, Seminole stuns East Lake, Newsome records remarkable rally in region semifinals

It wasn't the same level of play as their previous two encounters, thanks mainly to the high stakes involved, but the intensity between Sickles and Gaither last night lived up to all the pregame hype.

In the end, though, it was Sickles goalkeeper Brandon Stout who stole the show, stopping all three Gaither shooters in the penalty shootout to send his side through to the Class 5A-Region 3 final. According to Stout, it was the first time he had accomplished such a feat in a shootout at any level, and as I wrote here for the Tampa Tribune, before a shot even got taken, you could tell before the shootout began that Stout was at the peak of his game.

The Gryphons will face Seminole in the region final after the Warhawks stunned district rival East Lake 4-0. As The St. Petersburg Times' Bryan Burns writes here, it was the first time in five meetings this season that the Warhawks had defeated the Eagles, and they did so by playing a flawless game, taking an early lead and racking up a 3-0 advantage by halftime.

In Class 5A-Region 2, Newsome's remarkable run in their first region tournament continued thanks to Steven Gonzalez, who scored a hat trick including the game-winner, as the Wolves rallied for a 4-3 overtime victory against Plant City. The Tribune's Jarrett Guthrie was at the game, and filed this report.

The Wolves will now host Auburndale, which continued its run from being a district runner-up to the region final with a 2-0 victory against Ridge Community School on Tuesday.

In Class 4A, Jesuit's season came to an end against a strong, and experienced, Palmetto team trying to make its second straight run to the final four. As the Times' Eduardo A. Encina writes, Jesuit's youth was a key factor in the 4-1 defeat, but Coach Bob Bauman remained confident his side would be back and stronger for it next season.

Mitchell, on the other hand, is going to its first region final after the Mustangs defeated Land O' Lakes 3-2. As The Times' Izzy Gould writes, early goals from mistakes by the Gators proved crucial for the senior-heavy Mustangs.

The Mustangs will face Celebration in the region final after it defeated Ocala Vanguard 2-1.

Berkeley Prep set up the showdown with Fort Myers Bishop Verot most had been anticipating with a 7-1 victory against Clearwater Central Catholic. Kevin Harvey and T.J. Roeh each scored twice for the Buccaneers, Roehn reaching the 104 goal-mark for his career, putting him one behind Tyler Davis for the Buccaneers school record.

Bishop Verot has just as easy a time against DeSoto County, the No.22 team in the latest ESPN Rise national rankings earning a 6-1 victory.

Tampa Prep also cruised into the region final, Wes Sever notching a hat trick for the Terrapins in a 7-1 victory against Indian Rocks Christian. The Terrapins will travel to face Vero Beach St. Edward's in the region final after the Pirates defeated Evangelical Christian 3-1 to advance to the region final.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 launches Rowdies Report

The Tampa Tribune and have launched the Rowdies Report, to be run by yours truly, to keep local fans up to date with all the latest news from Tampa's newest professional franchise.

The weblog can be found here:

The twitter feed here:

And you can become our fan on Facebook here:

Do join up, won't you?

Preps: Sickles No.6 in NSCAA, No.15 in ESPN Rise polls

Sickles boys soccer squad has moves up to No.6 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of American national prep poll, and to No.15 in the ESPN Rise Fab 50 rankings ahead of its game against Gaither in the Class 5A-Region 3 boys soccer semifinals tonight.

The Gryphons were ranked No.10 by the NSCAA in the last set of rankings two weeks ago, and edged up one spot in the ESPN rankings from last week.

Sickles is No.2 in the State behind Melbourne in the NSCAA regional rankings, with East Lake ranked No.6 in the region. The Eagles are also ranked No.23 nationally by ESPN ahead of their game tonight with Seminole in the other Class 5A-Region 3 semifinal.

On the girls side, Palm Harbor moved up to No.8 in the ESPN Rise Fab 50 after its advancement to the state final four on Saturday with a 2-1 win against Apopka. The Hurricanes didn’t break into the NSCAA Top 10, though, currently ranked No.9 in the regional rankings, behind Berkeley Prep which currently sits in the No.7 spot.

Plant at Palm Harbor Region semifinal postponed

The Class 6A-Region 2 Boys semifinal between Plant and Palm Harbor scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Palm Harbor has been postponed to Wednesday at 7 p.m. the school confimed on Tuesday afternoon.

Plant coach Chris Carbon said in a text message just after 2 p.m. that he had been told the match had been postponed.

Currently, the remaining games in the Tampa Bay area appear to be going ahead despite the rain that has blanketed most of the bay area all day.

Preps: Sickles-Gaither rematch highlights region semifinal schedule

The first two meetings beween Sickles and Gaither have been outstanding affairs, Sickles winning the regular season meeting and edgeing out the Cowboys in a penalty shootout for the 5A-District 9 title just over a week ago.

If you're a fan of soccer, and haven't got an obligation to another school to be at their game tonight, go and see this game, Sickles High, 7 p.m. tonight.

For a look at all of the region semifinals involving Hillsborough and Pasco County teams, here is the preview I wrote for the Tampa Tribune this morning.

The St. Petersburg Times' Bryan Burns takes a look at the four games involving Pinellas County teams, including the one all-Pinellas match-up of East Lake vs. Seminole here.

Can't make it to tonight's Sickles-Gaither game? Follow the Tampa Bay Soccer Blog on twitter at for live updates, and other scores from select area games.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Colleges: Four locals among signees for University of Tampa women

Four players from Pinellas County are in the University of Tampa Women’s incoming class for 2010 as the school unveiled the players it had signed on Monday evening.

Palm Harbor’s Ashlin Cook and Shannon Walisch and Seminole’s Megan Lawrence and Casey Merson all signed with the Spartans last week.

Spartans coach Gerry Lucey said in a press release that he was very happy with the caliber of player he was bringing into the program. All four local players will compete for their respective schools this week at the FHSAA Girl’s Soccer State Final Four at the University of Tampa’s Pepin Stadium

“I am really happy and excited to announce these NLI signees as part of our 2010 class,” Lucey said. “We have in addition three other incoming players (enrolled in the spring of 2010) that will help push our program forward and back into the national spotlight. I am delighted that we have secured their commitment and look forward to working with them this fall. We have an exciting future ahead of us and I hope that we can fulfill our own expectations. We will have great depth and individual talent again and should compete once more for conference, regional and national titles.”

The full class can be found here.

Fourth of July game highlights Rowdies' inaugural schedule

A Fourth of July game at Steinbrenner Field against in-state rival FC Miami highlights the FC Tampa Bay Rowdies’ inaugural schedule, released by the U.S. Soccer Federation on Monday afternoon.

“That’s the one that stands out, isn’t it?” Rowdies head coach Paul Dalglish said. “I know it’s a tradition here to make a big deal of the Fourth of July game with the Rowdies, and we want to keep that going.”

The Rowdies will open and close the 30-game schedule against the same opponent, Crystal Palace Baltimore, with the Rowdies travelling to open the season on April 16, the second weekend of the season. The Rowdies will play their first regular season game at Steinbrenner Field on May 8 against the Austin Aztex.

“It’s going to be brilliant,” Dalglish said. “The first home game of our inaugural season is going to be exciting, and hopefully we can put some good performances in the first three games on the road and have people be excited to come and watch the team.”

Six of the Rowdies first nine games will be on the road, but the Rowdies will have a chance to make hay at home with a four-game stand at Steinbrenner Field coming in July and a three-game stand in August allowing for an opportunity to make a playoff push in front of home fans.

“The fact that we’ve got a lot of home games in the second half of the season is an advantage,” Dalglish said. “But it’s important we win the games in the other part of the season to build confidence going into these home games.”

Eight teams of the 12 will advance to the playoffs, with the top team in each conference gaining the No.1 or No.2 seed and the remaining six positions being determined by point. The playoffs will begin the week of October 4, with each round being contested over a home-and-home series, the winner being determined by total aggregate goals.

The league’s championship match will be contested the same way, instead of a single championship game.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Preps: Palm Harbor, Seminole advance, Newsome falls

The Tampa Bay area will have four representitives at this weeks FHSAA Girls Soccer State Finals at the University of Tampa's Pepin Stadium after Palm Harbor University and Seminole both booked their places in the final four with victories on Saturday, joining Tampa Prep and Berkeley Prep.

The Hurricanes, currently the reigning 5A champions, needed to come from a goal down to force overtime, where Zoe Lombard scored the game-winning goal with just under two minutes left in the second overtime for a 2-1 victory against Apopka.

PHU, currently ranked No.10 in the nation by ESPN Rise, has won four state titles in its history, the first coming in 1999, and will look to continue its road to a fifth when it faces Miami Lourdes this Friday in the 6A semifinals.

Seminole, on the other hand, hasn't been to a final four since 1991, falling in the region finals each of the past two seasons. The Warhawks will now get the chance to win their first state championship under long-time coach Steve Kuplicki, first facing a semifinal against Lynn Haven Mosley after a 1-0 victory against Venice.

Newsome, though, won't be joining the Warhawks in the 5A semifinals after falling for the third straight season to Lakeland Jenkins in the region playoffs. ESPN Rise's No.3 team scored twice in the first half, and while the Wolves tried to rally, they were unable to come close enough to make the Eagles sweat out their 4-2 victory.

With both sides having good young players, as long as both schools stay in the same class, this could develop into a deep-seated rivalry, as Newsome and Freedom's girls teams had when they both opened at the same time. The Wolves will be back, and still be strong next season.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Preps: Terrapins, Buccaneers book final four places

Tampa Prep is returning to the FHSAA Girls final four for the third straight season, and Berkeley Prep will be joining them, making its first appearance since 2005, after both sides won on Friday night in their respective region finals.

Tampa Prep got a little bit of luck, Mackenzie Logan's 59th minute goal coming somewhat fortuitously, but the Terrapins were outstanding defensively to defeat West Palm Beach King's Academy 1-0.

The Terrapins will face Maclay, 5-0 winners against Rocky Bayou Christian, in the state semifinals on Thursday. While Maclay has been impressive in its run to the final four, it will be important for the Terrapins to remember that King's Academy had the same resume coming into Friday night's game, and not get overawed by Maclay's scores.

Berkeley Prep certainly shouldn't have any jitters entering their state semifinal against Pensacola Catholic after a dominant display against Fort Myers Bishop Verot led to a 4-1 victory. Pensacola Catholic advanced in a penalty shootout after its game against Jacksonville Bolles ended 0-0 after overtime.

The Buccaneers girls have never won a state final four game, being eliminated in the semifinals in their three previous appearances. This season should be different, especially with U.S. Women's Under-17 goalkeeper Bryane Heaberlin returning after the sides training camp in Miami to what is already a powerful squad.

Hudson won't be joining the Terrapins and Buccaneers at Pepin stadium as the Cobras were unable to remove the hex Eustis has over them. For the third straight season, Eustis eliminated the Cobras from the region playoffs, this time in a 5-1 victory.

As was alluded to in the Berkeley Prep story, the remaining three region finals involving local teams were all postponed to Saturday, with Seminole facing Venice at 3 p.m. and Newsome facing Lakeland George Jenkins at 5 p.m. in Class 5A, and Palm Harbor University facing Apopka at 5 p.m. in Class 6A.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Preps: Newsome region final postponed to Saturday

The Tampa Tribune's Jarrett Guthrie reports that the Class 5A-Region 2 final between Newsome and Lakeland George Jenkins scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday night has been postponed to 5 p.m. on Saturday due to torrential rain.

Rowdies sign former U.S. Under-20 captain Valentin

TAMPA – The FC Tampa Bay Rowdies have announced the signing of former U.S. Under-20 international defender Julian Valentin, the 16th signing by the side as it prepares for its inaugural season, beginning in early April.

Valentin, a 2008 selection of the Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS Superdraft, captained the United States at the 2007 U-20 World Cup in Canada, and was also a captain for the Under-17 and Under-18 teams prior to that.

“Julian is a natural leader on and off the field and has captained the U.S. at every level he has played at,” Rowdies coach Paul Dalglish said in a press release. “He will be a leader which is invaluable. This is another very exciting signing for the Rowdies as the start of our inaugural season nears."

Valentin played his college career for ACC power Wake Forest, starting in 59 games and scoring nine goals for the Demon Deacons in his college career.

Preps: Newsome, Berkeley, Tampa Prep take aim at final four

The road to Tampa comes to an end tonight, with Newsome, Berkeley Prep and Tampa Prep all looking to reach the girls state final four at the University of Tampa's Pepin Stadium with victories in their respective region finals tonight.

The Tampa Tribune's Jarrett Guthrie takes a look at what all three sides will face on Friday night in this preview.

Defending Class 5A champion Palm Harbor University will look to continue its pursuit of a title in Class 6A when it travels to face Apopka, while Hudson will try to advance past perrenial foe Eustis. The Panthers have eliminated the Cobras in the past two seasons, both in one-goal games including a 4-3 victory in the region semifinals last season.

As another reminder, if you can't make it to West Palm Beach tonight for Tampa Prep's game against King's Academy, you can follow the Tampa Bay Soccer Blog at for live game updates from 6 p.m. tonight.

Preps: Panthers' stunning victory highlights region quarterfinals

Plant's first boys region playoff victory since 2003 likely couldn't have come in more dramatic fashion.

The Panthers scored on what was probably their final attack of the game to equalize on a header by John Fernandez before Danny Johnson scored in the 97th minute to give his side a 2-1 victory against Countryside on Thursday night, setting off crazy scene's at Dad's Stadium, writes the St. Petersburg Times' Eduardo A. Encina.

Plant has had a remarkable second season under Coach Chris Carbon, but this victory is, at least on paper, its most impressive to date. Now the Panthers will hit the road to take on a Palm Harbor side that only advanced past Bloomingdale 1-0 in a penalty shootout.

While losing in a shootout is always disappointing, Bloomingdale looks like a team on the rise. The Bulls only lose five seniors from this year's team should the rest of the roster return, and will have the highly talented Tevin Gage returning for his senior season.

Speaking of penalty shootouts, Gaither managed to squeak through against Port Charlotte after goalkeeper John Nardozzi made a save in the first round of sudden-death for a 2-1 victory, David Briggs having scored on the prior kick for what proved to be the game-winner.

The Cowboys will now get a district final rematch with Sickles, which cruised to victory against Punta Gorda Charlotte 3-0. As the Times' John C. Cotey writes, the Gryphons throw-ins, provided predominantly by Ben Wiley on Thursday thanks to Tyler Deming's absence, were crucial to their advancement to the region semifinals for the first time in school history.

There will also be rematches in the other two local 5A semifinals as Newsome routed Brooksville Central 7-1 behind Steven Gonzalez's hat trick, and Plant City edged out Ocala Forest 2-1, although someone should probably mention that the Raiders first loss came in the Wharton Invitational to Hillsborough.

East Lake and Seminole will also face off again, both sides easing through to the region semifinals as the Eagles defeated Pinellas Park 5-0 and the Warhawks blasted Northeast 7-1.

In Class 4A, the "unofficial Pasco County Championship" game, so dubbed by Mitchell coach Oscar Ubillus, is on for Tuesday night as the Mustangs will face Land O' Lakes for a place in the region final. Mitchell defeated Wiregrass Ranch 5-1 on Thursday night, while the Gators defeated Wesley Chapel 3-0.

Jesuit also moved on, but had to survive a late rally by Lakewood Ranch to hold on for a 3-2 victory. The Tigers will need to be better against a Palmetto team that romped past Steinbrenner 5-0 in Tuesday's region semifinal.

Berkeley Prep and Clearwater Central Catholic will face off again for a place in the Class 3A-Region 3 final, the Buccaneers cruising to a 5-0 victory against Frostproof, while the Marauders got two late first half goals to advance past Mulberry 2-0.

Tampa Prep will also face a rematch against Indian Rocks Christian after Anthony Baumann (four assists) and Wes Sever (four goals) allowed the Terrapins to cruise past Bradenton St. Stephen's 6-0. IRC advanced with a 3-0 victory against Out-of-Door Academy thanks to Cody Sitton's hat trick, but Seffner Christian's run came to an end with a 4-0 defeat at Florida Air.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Preps: Confidence key for Terrapins in Region Final

TAMPA – Tampa Prep's girls are hoping the biggest thing to come out of their Class 2A-Region 3 semifinal victory against Bradenton St. Stephen’s on Tuesday evening will manifest itself on Friday night as the Terrapins try to return to the state final four for the third successive season.

That thing? Confidence.

For a while, the Terrapins were a side somewhat lacking in self-belief. After putting aside some early jitters again on Tuesday, though, Coach Cindy Schofield believes the side is now ready to face the challenge West Palm Beach King’s Academy will pose them in the region final at 6 p.m.

“I think beating St. Stephen’s was a huge confidence-booster because we hadn’t really had any big wins on the year yet, so that was a big win for us,” Schofield said before the Terrapins drove south on Thursday evening. “Now we believe in ourselves, we believe in the team and we believe we’re going to win against anybody.”

Terrapins captain Jackie Rosenthal pointed to the youth on the side, with a number of sophomores playing key roles, as part of the reason for the dips in confidence the side has had.

“We’ve been playing against a lot of very hard teams, and we’ve been battling, so I don’t think everyone believes in ourselves as much as they should,” Rosenthal said. “I think the St. Stephen’s game taught us that we are capable of winning, and if we come together and we relax and we play to feet we can do it.”

Rosenthal’s return to the side for the past three games, the first the Terrapins win in the district final, has certainly provided a boost. After suffering a slight tear in her left meniscus, Rosenthal made the decision to return to the field to help her team any way she could. Schofield said as much as the Terrapins needed her abilities in the center of midfield, they needed Rosenthal’s vocal leadership on the field more.

“Her leadership role on the field was what we missed the most,” Schofield said. “She’s just our vocal leader on the field, when things are down she picks the girls up. Obviously then we can move Amber (Miller) back into defense, and it makes our backline a lot stronger, because Amber kind of slid into that center-mid role to cover for Jackie, so moving Amber back, our back four plus (goalkeeper) Jordan (Hatton) is awesome.”

Hatton has also been a pivotal player for the Terrapins. One of only three seniors on the side this season, Hatton’s leadership has come to the fore. The standout goalkeeper attributes that to the example she was set as a young player in the Terrapins’ program.

“Having those girls when I was younger above you as someone to look up to, I think it helped a lot,” Hatton said. “As I’ve gotten older, now that I’m a senior, I want to win more and I think I know what it takes. I know that I need to be the person the set the pace, to say that we need to step it up or we need to do better and just take control.”

Taking control early is exactly what the Terrapins will need to do against a King’s Academy side that has posted a pair of impressive victories to reach Friday’s region final. Schofield, though, believes her side is up to the task.

“We’ve been working on building their confidence week-in and week-out and practice and just making them believe in themselves, and they do,” Schofield said. “They’re ready.”

Can’t get to West Palm Beach for Tampa Prep’s region final? Follow the Tampa Bay Soccer Blog at for live game updates from 6 p.m. on Friday night.

South Florida's Aristeguieta named Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year

South Florida’s Francisco Aristeguieta has become the second consecutive Bull to be named the Big East Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year, following in the footsteps of teammate Zak Boggs, the 2008-09 winner of the award.

Aristeguieta will receive a $4,000 scholarship that can be applied to graduate or professional studies.

"I think that this is a reflection of a lot of hard work, because that is the mentality that is instilled in us here at USF," Aristeguieta said in a school press release. "Our advisors and our coaches are always telling us to work as hard as we possibly can. I am honored to receive the award, and equally as honored to represent the school in earning this award."

Aristeguieta was a captain for the Bulls for the past two seasons, starting 20 games in 2009 principally as a central midfielder and recording three assists. Bulls coach George Keifer said he was very proud of Aristeguieta having won the award.

"This is a tremendous honor," Kiefer said. "While this is the second year in a row for a member of our program to win this award, I think that the main focus is on Francisco winning it. He has served as a two-year captain for our program and has really been a leader, and for him to be picked for this award from all the great student-athletes in the Big East shows a lot about him and his character. I think that is why he has been such a great captain that past two years."

This is only the second time in the award’s history that it has been awarded to members of the same school, with Villanova having won the award in three straight years from 1987-89.

Preps; Region quarterfinals preview; Freedom's Hinkle steps down

With the five classes pared down their respective 32 teams after last week's district tournaments, the boys region tournaments get underway tonight across the bay area.

Here's my look at the match-ups involving Hillsborough County schools from this morning's Tampa Tribune, while the Tribune's Mike Camunas previews the two match-ups in Pasco County here.

In other prep news, Freedom girls coach Chris Hinkle has decided to step down after four seasons leading the Patriots program. Personally, I will miss Coach Hinkle on the prep beat. I thought he did an excellent job with the Patriots, leading them to a dominant victory in the district tournament this season, and hope he stays involved with Fusion FC in the club game.

Preps: South Florida beckons for four Chargers

CLEARWATER – As was the case at signing ceremonies across the area, and likely the country on Wednesday, the excitement level at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa was high.

“This is just a great feeling,” Berkeley Prep’s T.J. Roehn said. “I’ve been dreaming about this for a while, so it’s just awesome.”

Roehn was one of 27 Clearwater Chargers who signed with their respective colleges on Wednesday night. With another two of the clubs’ players already enrolled at the schools of their choice, it was the largest class the Chargers program has ever produced.

In amongst those were four players, including Roehn, who will continue their careers in Tampa at the University of South Florida. Joining Roehn were his Under-18 Academy teammates Ben Sweat (Palm Harbor), Javon Bostic (East Lake) and Shane Wixted (Seminole). Wixted shared Roehn’s excitement at the opportunity to continue his career as a Bull.

“It means a lot to me,” Wixted said. “I’ve worked hard for this my whole life since I was 4 years old, and now I’ve going to get to accomplish my dream.”

All of the players gave credit to the Chargers’ Academy program for helping them get this far. Other members of the team that signed on Wednesday included Tampa Prep’s Wes Sever (George Mason) and Anthony Baumann (Providence), Mitchell’s Max Rockwell (Southern Methodist) and Berkeley Prep’s Michael Attal (Columbia). Established three years ago, the elevated level of play and practice the Chargers get from the U.S. Soccer Federation Development Academy League has helped the players, as has the exposure they get from being part of the USSF Academy set-up.

“The Chargers have done so many things for me, not just as a player but as a person,” Wixted said. “Just playing-wise, I’ve become such a better player because they have great coaches there.”

South Florida recruiting local players strongly is nothing new. Wharton’s Ogi Perucica is part of the Bulls outgoing senior class, and players like goalkeeper Jeff Attinella from Countryside, who was named a First Team All-American last December, Fernando Gonzalez of Gaither and Sebastian Thuriere of Seminole have become fixtures in the Bulls starting XI.

For this many players from one club to be going to the same school together, though, is somewhat unprecedented. Chargers Academy coach Garth Pollonais said he believes the Bulls are making an even stronger effort than in the past to recruit the best of the local talent.

“I think USF realized we have a lot of talent in our own backyard,” Pollonais said. “So even though they will still get foreign players, they know there’s a crop of players in their backyard, so they took a close look at the crop of players in their backyard and realized, ‘hey, we’ve got some players who could come in and really make an impact for our program, and we don’t have to go all over the country to find them.’ So fortunately for us, they got four of them.”

Ben Sweat was the first of the quartet to commit, closely followed by Roehn and Bostic before Wixted decommitted from Providence to also become a Bull. But while players often factor in the decisions of their teammates, all the Chargers players said their teammates’ decisions weren’t that big a factor in their decision, Bostic saying he had his sights set on being a Bull from the moment he arrived from Arizona four years ago.

“I went to a summer camp there, and I just fell in love with the place,” Bostic said. “I got lots of offers, but as soon as USF offered me, I was hooked and I committed right away.”

That said, all four players are glad they will have friends on the team when they enroll with South Florida in the fall as they look forward to the chance to continue their careers together.

“It’s a really good feeling,” Sweat said. “It’s just a dream. Big East school, top 5 in the country, it’s a dream come true.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

NASL Interim Commissioner Jeff Cooper Q&A

Pitch Invasion, an excellent soccer website, has posted a Q&A with the NASL's Interim Commisioner Jeff Cooper, where he speaks about MLS, the WPS and the NASL/USSF Second Division.

Nothing too much in regard to the Rowdies in here, but it is an interesting interview with a man whose influence in North American soccer has grown considerably in the past few years.

Preps: Hurricanes advance, defeat Panthers; Wolves, Buccaneers, Terrapins all into region finals

Defending Class 5A champion Palm Harbor University continued its bid for a second straight state title, this time in Class 6A, with an impressive 2-0 victory against Plant.

But, as I wrote for the Tampa Tribune this morning, the Panthers were disappointed not to have played to the level that had for the rest of the season.

Don't take anything away from the Hurricanes performance, though. Forwards Catherine Brinkman and Kelly Phipps were a constant thorn in the Panthers' side, illustrating perfectly how a side can control a game when every member of the team from the front back is committed to defending strongly, Colleen Lynch and Anja Decker also doing an excellent job in midfield.

The Hurricanes will now travel to face Apopka, which advanced to the first region final with a 3-1 victory against Palm Bay.

Newsome will again get to face Lakeland George Jenkins for a place in the Class 5A final four after the Wolves defeated district rival East Bay 3-1. Tribune girls correspondent Jarrett Guthrie was at the game, and filed this story.

Jenkins, on the other hand, got a slightly tougher game than the last time they faced Winter Haven, advancing 4-1. Friday's meeting in Lakeland will be the fourth consecutive season the Wolves and Eagles will have met in the playoffs, Newsome winning the first meeting in 2007 before the Eagles took the last two meetings, including a 1-0 overtime victory last season.

Freedom wasn't able to join Newsome in the region final, a 5-1 defeat to a powerful Venice squad ending the Patriots season. Freedom coach Chris Hinkle was highly impressed with the Indians performance, according to the St. Petersburg Times' Joey Knight.

Venice will now host another bay area team, Seminole, which had Jordyn Turner to thank for its 2-1 victory against East Lake.

In Class 4A, Steinbrenner's undefeated season came to an end at the hands of Lakewood Ranch. The Times' Eduardo A. Encina saw the 2-1 Lakewood Ranch victory.

While the Warriors' remarkable run came to an end, Hudson's continued on with a 4-3 victory against River Ridge. Tribune correspondent Mike Camunas saw the Cobras rally back from a 3-1 deficit to advance to the first region final in school history.

The Cobras will now face Eustis in the region final hoping that the third time will be the charm. Eustis has eliminated Hudson from the players for the past two seasons.

Berkeley Prep advanced to face Fort Myers Bishop Verot in Class 3A, but the 4-1 final score didn't indicate how close most of the game was, according to The Times' Keith Niebuhr.

And finally, Tampa Prep advanced to the Class 2A-Region 3 final with a 3-1 victory against Bradenton St. Stephen's, fighting off some early game nerves before Isabel Dalence and Caroline Cheek found the net to send the Terrapins through to face West Palm Beach King's Academy on Friday.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Preps: Sickles, East Lake each move up one in ESPN Poll

Sickles moved up one spot to No.16 in the latest ESPN Rise Boys Fab 50 when the new rankings were released on Tuesday afternoon.

The Gryphons host Punta Gorda Charlotte on Thursday in the Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinals, and should they reach the region final could face a showdown with No.25 East Lake, which also rose one spot. The Eagles face Pinellas Park on Thursday.

In the girls poll, Palm Harbor University remained No.10 in the nation ahead of the Hurricanes match-up with Plant tonight in the Class 6A-Region 2 semifinals.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Preps: Sickles retains top spot in final Hillsborough Poll

Sickles retained the top spot in the final Hillsborough Boys Coaches Poll of the season after its penalty shootout victory in the Class 5A-District 9 final against No.3 Gaither on Friday night.

The Gryphons will face Punta Gorda Charlotte on Thursday in the region quarterfinals of the Class 5A state tournament, and could face a rematch with the Cowboys in the semifinals should Gaither defeat Port Charlotte.

Jumping up five places to No.2 was Jesuit, the Class 4A-9 champions, while 5A-8 champions Newsome and 2A-9 champions Tampa Prep rounded out the top five.

Plant City dropped from the No.2 slot to No.6 after its loss to Newsome in the 5A-8 final, while Berkeley Prep re-entered the poll at No.7 and 6A-8 champion Plant earned the No.8 spot.

The full poll can be found below.

1. Sickles (21-1-3)
2. Jesuit (17-4-3)
3. Gaither (15-4-1)
4. Newsome (15-4-3)
5. Tampa Prep (14-4-2)
6. Plant City (13-2-2)
7. Berkeley Prep (10-8-3)
8. Plant (10-7-1)
9. Tampa Catholic (11-3-5)
10. East Bay (13-3-1)

Preps: Berkeley's Roehn cleared to play Thursday

Berkeley Prep standout T.J. Roehn said on Monday he has been cleared to play for the Buccaneers in Thursday’s Class 3A-Region 3 quarterfinal against Frostproof after his second appeal to the FHSAA was successful in reducing his suspension from three weeks to just two.

Roehn was issued a red card against Lakeland George Jenkins for profane language after an altercation with one of the Eagles defenders. While suspended, he missed the Buccaneers final regular season game against Jesuit and last week’s Class 3A-District 10 tournament.

Roehn said he was thrilled by the decision which will allow him the opportunity to play with his Buccaneer teammates again.

“When I got the red card at the George Jenkins game the first thing that came into my mind was, ‘wow, I could be out for the rest of the season,’ “ Roehn said. “I’m lucky I got it removed … I feel like my season was almost over, but now I have a chance to not only make it back to states with the team, but break the record as well.”

Roehn, who will sign with South Florida on Wednesday, currently has 101 goals for the Buccaneers, four short of Tyler Davis’ school record.

Yamada becomes latest signing for Rowdies

The FC Tampa Bay Rowdies have announced the signing of Japanese international midfielder Takuya Yamada, a veteran of the Japanese J-League.

Yamada, who has made four appearances for his country, said in a press release that he was very happy to have become a member of the club.

“I am happy that I am playing in the United States and with FC Tampa Bay who truly loves the sport and respects its athletes,” Yamada said.

Yamada began his career in 1997 with Tokyo Verdy, for which he made 296 appearances and scored 28 goals. Yamada also served as the team’s captain for three seasons. The 35-year-old has also played domestically for Cerezo Osaka, Yokahama FC and Sagan Tosu, and was impressive during the Rowdies final combine in Tampa held last month.

“We are ecstatic to secure Takuya Yamada for our inaugural team,” Rowdies Owner and President Andrew Nestor said. “Takuya is an icon in the game and he will bring depth, leadership and passion to our team.”

With the signing of Chinese player Long Tan on Sunday, this now give the Rowdies five of their seven allowed international players, and 15 players under contract for their inaugural season scheduled to begin in early April.