The Nature Coast Tech Varsity Boys Soccer team (12-4-1) defeated the Weeki Wachee Hornets (6-7-3) by a slim 1-0 margin on a frigid Friday night at the Shark Tank. Coming into the matchup, both teams were experiencing some difficulties heading into the final stretch of their seasons. The Sharks had started with an impressive 10-1-1 record over their initial 12 games but stumbled in three out of their last four contests before hosting the Hornets. Weeki Wachee’s schedule had been less kind. After starting the season with a 4-1 record, the Green and Black had only managed a 2-5-3 record over their last ten outings. With their hard-fought victory on Friday, Head Coach Sal Calabrese and the Sharks started to get back on track while the Hornets were left out in the cold searching for answers.
“Difficult to play in this kind of weather with the wind blowing as hard as it was,” Coach Calabrese said. “Just got to keep everything on the ground. We didn’t keep everything on the ground. It was just a nightmare that the wind played havoc. The cold is fine, but as far as them, I mean, we scored an early goal, and we held them for the last – whatever it was – 70 minutes. We scored in the first 10 minutes or something, and then we just held them for 70. They’re a good team… Very good goalkeeper. Played very well, made some good saves.”
A succinct synopsis of what transpired by the head man of the home team, the windy and cool weather likely did not help either squad. Efficient defense, especially by the goalkeepers, kept points at a premium. After some light pressure in the first 10 minutes of game time, the Sharks netted the only goal of the night when Junior Hunter Pye scored on a corner throw with just under 30 minutes remaining until halftime. A mere three minutes later, the team in the light blue jerseys nearly doubled their lead on another throw-in from the corner, but Sophomore Goalkeeper John Brooks was up to the challenge and snatched the ball out of the air. Outside of surrendering the early goal, which itself was a difficult situation considering the mass of bodies congregating in front of the net, Brooks answered the call time and again. His saves kept the Hornets within striking distance.
This almost paid off for the visitors in the white jerseys. Coach Michael Mullen’s squad put themselves in prime scoring positions on a handful of plays in the game, but they could not punch it in. Coming out of the first-half water break, Junior Goalkeeper Cole Pretorius came out of the goal to retrieve a ball coming his way, but the largely surehanded keeper was unable to get a clean handle on it. The Hornets did not have any players near enough to take advantage, though, and the ball was kicked out of harm’s way by the Sharks. A few more close calls occurred in the second half as Weeki Wachee failed to capitalize on certain plays. These opportunities were set up by Brooks’ defensive play, as the matchup likely would have been more one-sided against the Hornets without them. Despite the outcome, Coach Calabrese felt there was still plenty for the Sharks to work on.
“We got to work on our first touch and our dribbling skills,” the Sharks’ head coach said. “Really, I mean, it’s technical. It’s technical stuff we got to work on. It’s technique, and their technique was not there tonight. It hasn’t been there for a while. Got some players that are injured. We got a player who’s out, so that doesn’t help either.”
Only a pair of games remain for each team to play before the end of the regular season. Nature Coast will look to continue working on technique as they travel to take on the Wesley Chapel Wildcats (10-5-1) on Thursday evening. Weeki Wachee will hope to establish some late-season momentum on the road against the Fivay Falcons (3-10) on Tuesday night. Both squads should feel familiar with their final opponent as the cross-county rivals will face each other for the second time in the span of a week on Friday evening – this time at the Hornets’ Nest.