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HomeUncategorizedNature Coast Sharks Fall at Final Hurdle

Nature Coast Sharks Fall at Final Hurdle

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When the District 7 3A Boys Soccer Tournament kicked off at Hernando it was the Nature Coast Sharks who were in the driving seat on Monday. They entered the work behind a one loss district season, hoping to repeat 2017-18.

6 Soccer Matches later and it just wasn’t to be for Coach Wald and his Sharks.

Monday’s opener saw the number 4 and 5 seeds in Springstead and Weeki Wachee go head to head with the winner looking forward to a battle against the number 1 seeded Pasco Pirates. The Hornets were looking good and got off to a quick start with Aaron Jimenez setting up Luis Endara for his 10th goal of the season and the tournament’s opening goal. The lead, however, didn’t last and it was James Campbell who got the Eagles back on level terms to take things into the half time break 1-1. The second half was all about the Eagles, and following a handball decision in the penalty area, it was James Campbell who stepped up and slotted away the penalty. With Weeki Wachee subsequently down to 10 men, it was Devin Salazar who put the game beyond doubt to take Springstead Eagles into Wednesday night’s semi-final.

Number 3 Wesley Chapel was next up, hot favorites to stride past the Hernando Leopards following earlier season victories of 2-1 and 9-1. The Leopards, however, has been playing better soccer in the closing games of the season were not going to take things lying down. They came out the much stronger of the two teams and it took just over 8 minutes for Jacob Kelly to hit the back of the net. 10 minutes later and it was Noah Bedard who stepped up and slid the ball past the Wildcat stopper and into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.  With just 25 minutes on the clock and a poor error from the Wildcat, stopper helped Byron Cruz slot home for a 3-0 lead. That wasn’t to remain and it was Wesley chapel who scored just before half time, to leave Hernando with a 3-1 half time lead. Coming out for the second half and it was Jacob Kelly who collected the ball on the halfway line, making his way down the left-hand side before cutting in and sending the ball into the back of the net. The Leopards, however, were not finished and it was Wilson Lopez who added a fifth in spectacular fashion with just 6 minutes remaining on the clock. Hernando was through the courtesy of the nights major upset and would face Nature Coast in the Semi Final.

Nature Coast, coasted to a 6-1 victory when they strolled past number 7 seeded Zephyrhills. A hat trick of goals from Thomas Di Frank was backed up with a double from Jaxsen Soto and a solo effort from Tyler Dzierzawski.

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Wednesday night came around fast and with the number one seeded Pasco Pirates in top form coming into the tournament Springstead were on the back foot early on as Coach Grayling’s players didn’t want to be the second upset of the week.

From Start to finish the Eagles could only muster 3 shots on target as the Pirates ran out 7-0 victors. The goals were spread around with 6 different players hitting the back of the net behind a master class of assists from Jason Nicolette.

The evening’s eagerly anticipated all Hernando tie between the Leopards and the Sharks followed shortly after and it was the Sharks who benefitted from an eagle-eyed referee who pointed to the spot as early as the 7th minute.  With the penalty duly converted it was up to Jacob Kelly to find the back of the net for the Leopards and head into the water break at 1-1. It just wasn’t to be for Coach Stone’s Leopards as they were unable to get on the score sheet again. With the Sharks hitting the back of the net from Stulec, Kelly, DiFrank, and Cauchino to register a 4-1 victory and set up a repeat of last season’s district final against Pasco.

With the final being a repeat of the previous season, would the Nature Coast Sharks win again? Or would the Pirates exact revenge?

The soccer early on was end to end with both teams working to carve out opportunities. Vinny Stulec was resolute in the Sharks defense ensuring opportunities were at a premium early on as well as traveling up the field to do what he could to take advantage of any set pieces that came the Sharks’ way. It was Jason Nicolette who got the breakthrough for Pasco following a mix up at the back and with Pasco taking an early lead how would the Sharks respond? Respond they did and it was Tony Howard who bullied his way through the Nature Coast back line to slot the ball home and takes things into half time 1-1. The second half was pretty much all Pasco and it was Junior Mario Garcia who was running things in the midfield for the Pirates. His strength and ball control leading the way as he hit the back of the net to take an early second-half lead. Landon Surratt for the Pirates was instrumental with two assists in the second half and the Sharks just couldn’t find a way back into the game. Miguel Flores increased the Pirates lead shortly before the water break and it just wasn’t to be for the Sharks as they ran out of steam as the clock counted down.

Nature Coast will travel to River Ridge in the Regional Quarter Final. The game to be played on February 6th at 7 pm.

Pasco Pirates host Gulf in the other Quarter Final, also to be played February 6th at 7 pm.

Leslie Stein
Leslie Stein
Leslie Stein has over 35 years experience as a Speech-Language Pathologist working with neurologically impaired adults. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of South Florida in Speech Pathology.
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