Costly win for the Eagles
as Andreu is kicked by NCT’s
Soto, possibly fracturing his knee
By TONY CASTRO
BROOKSVILLE – After the first three weeks of the Hernando County boys’ soccer season, F.W. Springstead lost its third starter Friday night at Shark Tank Stadium.
Though the Eagles snapped a two-game losing skein by blanking the defending Hernando County and Class 3A, District 7 champion Nature Coast Technical Sharks in their own sand box, 2-0, there was no time to celebrate.
On the final play of the game, frustration was boiling over with the NCT players.
In a match where five yellow cards were issued – including to four different Sharks – SHS (3-0-0 county, 2-1-0 3A-7, 2-1-0 overall), was desperately clinging to a 1-0 lead with four minutes left in the match.
Springstead senior Suly McAdam accounted for the game’s only score on a corner kick that bent from the left and curled around and over NCT goalie Justice Pye into the back of the net at 9:32 of the first half.
From there, both teams struggled to combine passes to dent the scoreboard.
The host Sharks aimed just six on frame against first-year Eagles’ goalie Ethan Hray, who made three saves.
SHS countered with seven shots against Pye.
At 68:00, Springstead junior Andreu Collin ripped a shot that clanked off the far post, just missing an opportunity for an insurance goal.
In a second half where the Sharks were called for the four yellow cards, Hernando County’s 2016-17 Player of the Year Vinny Stulec lost his cool with four minutes left undercutting an airborne Hray.
The Springstead bench wanted a red card for the defenseless Hray, who went up in the air, was clobbered and hit the deck hard, but ultimately remained in the game.
Three minutes passed before a sophomore Allan Alcaide’s entry pass found a diagonal cutting Aaron Vilkama, who tucked in his third goal of the season just inside the far post, 2-0.
But with milliseconds left in the match, NCT sophomore striker Jaxsen Soto lost his temper and kicked Andreu. Andreu immediately crumbled to turf crying as loud as he could before indicating that ‘he heard something snap’ in his right knee.
At that point, the game officials called the match. Andreu was taken to nearby hospital. At press time, his official condition was unknown.
With the win, the Eagles notched its 14th career bagel against the Sharks (0-1-1 county, 2-2-1 3A-7, 3-2-1 overall).
The Spring Hill crew, which opened the lifetime series at 18-0-1 against NCT, improved to 22-6-3 all-time vs. the Sharks dating back to the inaugural meeting in 2003-04.
Should Andreu’s injury be as severe as it appeared, he’d be the third Eagles’ starter lost – if not for the season – for an extended period of time.
Already on the bench in crutches was Cole Dixon, who suffered a broken tibia against Weeki Wachee on Nov. 15.
In Monday night’s 1-0 loss to Pasco, senior Parker Knight was tripped up. He took offense to the contact, but couldn’t regain his cool and was given a straight red card.
Due to the alleged verbal abuse he hurdled in the incident, he was given the maximum penalty – six weeks away from soccer.
As of Friday night, SHS’ fourth-year mentor Jason Soto – who has no relation to Jaxsen Soto – explained that Eagles’ administration could not appeal the FHSAA ruling since no completed paperwork had been received from the Parker family explaining its position to SHS Athletic Director Dustin Kupcik.
Coach Soto admitted when Andreu was hurt transformed Friday’s match into hollow victory.
“Playing against them (NCT) is always big,” explained Soto, who won for the first time at Shark Tank Stadium to improve to 2-5-2 lifetime. “But tonight’s win doesn’t mean as much when we lose Andreu. It’s really hard to celebrate when something like this happens.”
Seeking a silver lining to ominous situation, “I thought we finally played as team for 80 minutes,” declared Soto. “What I liked most was the guys stuck to game plan from the beginning of the match to the end.”
On McAdams’ first goal of the night, “Suly’s goal was huge,” responded Coach Soto. “That goal really opened up the game for us. We’ve been telling him to shoot, but he’s a playmaker and would rather have someone else shoot. He’s really our best assist person.
“… On that second goal, I wish it would have could a lot sooner,” suggested Soto. “The big thing I take away was how we jelled together as a team. Right now with all the injuries, our striker position is a revolving door. Suly’s goal was so big, because that’s exactly how you want to start a match every night on top.”
From the home sideline, NCT’s Ian Wald, a 2005 SHS alumnus, didn’t make any excuses.
“Springstead outplayed us. They were well composed, well organized and defended us well,” revealed Wald. “We adapted as the game went on.
“Allowing that first goal sucks, because you get behind early,” added Wald. “The effort was alright; it’s not like our guys didn’t try. We didn’t do what we needed to do.”
Asked what was the biggest positive was emanating from the night, Wald quipped, “That it’s over.”
SHS’ enigmatic defender Luke Howard, who is known county-wide, for speaking his mind perhaps too much, was the centerpiece of the durable Eagles’ defense.
“Getting a shutout here is huge,” pointed out the 17-year-old Howard. “We’ve lost to them (NCT) each of the last three years. It was different seeing them get frustrated.”
Asked what the difference was against the Sharks, “Our first goal by Suly was big. After that, all the communication we had. Everyone played their hearts out. The big thing was we didn’t get caught up in what they were saying.”
Vilkama credited Alcaide for threading a gorgeous pass.
“That cross was great. I was screaming to him and he put a perfect touch on that ball allowing me to make that last goal,” smiled 15-year-old Vilkama.
“I loved Suly’s first goal,” added Vilkama. “It was a beautiful technical goal. He saw it open up, took the shot and rest is history. Tonight was just a great job by the entire team. Our defense fought hard on every possession.
“I thought we put everything into this one,” suggested Vilkama. “I think we wanted this a little more than they did.”
“Our first goal set the tone,” beamed the 17-year-old McAdam. “Making it really boosted our morale. I was trying to test out that keeper. We had heard some things, that’s why I tried it.”
On the keys to victory, “Our defense held the game together,” replied McAdam. “It was a huge win. Those guys have had their way with us the last three years. It was frustrating losing to them.”
Springstead travels to Zephyrhills on Monday while NCT returns to the pitch on Wednesday facing Weeki Wachee.
Springstead 2, Nature Coast Technical 0
Goals – SPG: McAdam, Vilkama.
Assists – SPG: Alcaide.
Shots on goal – SPG: 8. NCT: 6.
Saves – SPG: Hray (3). NCT: Pye ((3).
Yellow cards – SPG: Luke Howard (unsporting behavior); NCT: Coach Wald (dissent), Johnson (unsporting behavior), Stulec (unsporting behavior), Soto (unsporting behavior).
Blue cards – none.
Red cards – none.
Records – Springstead (3-0-0 county, 2-1-0 3A-7, 2-1-0 overall), Nature Coast Technical (0-1-1 county, 2-2-1 3A-7, 3-2-1 overall).