Coming off of back-to-back wins to start the season, the Weeki Wachee Hornets varsity boys soccer team (2-1) looked to continue its strong start against the Crystal River Pirates (1-1). That was not meant to be on Monday night as the home team fell to the visiting Pirates 4-2, leaving fans to wonder what the rest of the season might bring. This look ahead is too late to be called a season preview and it is too early for this to be a mid-season review, so this will be more of a first impressions instead.
On the heels of an impressive 17-4 season last year, what should be expected of this year’s incarnation of the Hornets? The answer is not so simple. According to Head Coach Michael Mullen, “We’re a young team. Last year we had a lot of seniors, so they’re still getting used to each other, but I think we have a lot of potential.”
Losing upwards of ten seniors from last year’s squad including their starting goalkeeper was not going to be an overnight fix. Weeki Wachee’s polar performances in the first and second halves of Monday’s match are evidence of this.
Out of the gate, Crystal River came out firing and the Hornets had little answer. In the first minute of the match, the Pirates found themselves in a legitimate scoring position. Fortunately for the home team, the visitors kicked the ball into the crossbar above the goalie and it bounced harmlessly away. However, that early pressure was a harbinger of things to come. Senior Tyler Smith began the barrage four minutes into the contest as he scored the first of the Pirates’ three first half goals. Weeki Wachee failed to apply any significant pressure in the first half and fell down 3-0 despite a spirited effort from MF Junior Gavin Maye.
The second half would turn out to be a much different story as the Hornets turned up the heat on that chilly fall evening. “I think they definitely played much more aggressively,” said Mullen afterwards of their performance. “It seemed like they had more of a fire in their belly there in the second half than in the first.”
Within the opening 12 minutes of the second half, the Pirates saw their lead dwindle to a 3-2 margin as the home team consistently found themselves in scoring positions. The visitors, on the other hand, were held to a paltry handful of legitimate opportunities in the second half. Despite this, one of those possessions found its way into the Hornets goal with roughly 10 minutes left in the contest. This would end Weeki Wachee’s bid at the comeback and give the visitors the victory.
No doubt teams on the Hornets’ schedule, such as the upcoming Central Bears, will attempt to replicate Crystal River’s aggressive first-half game plan to get Weeki Wachee out of rhythm early. If the black-and-green clad home team can avoid falling into a large deficit early, Coach Mullen and company should likely feel confident in doing the same as the season evolves. The Hornets will look to replicate their recent success against the Bears Wednesday night.
“But that is what we talked about, though, about being more aggressive and really wanting to win the ball and wanting to bring the game to the other team,” Mullen said.