GHS boys soccer overcomes Vanguard


Published: Saturday, January 26, 2008 at 8:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 26, 2008 at 8:31 p.m.

Suddenly, nothing else mattered.

Not the teeth-chattering cold. Not the two wins from the 2005-06 season. And certainly not the six from last year.

The Gainesville High School boys soccer team had found redemption, and Friday night at Citizens Field they were ready to celebrate. It took 100 scoreless minutes and then a 4-2 advantage in penalty kicks against Ocala Vanguard, but the Hurricanes had gone from the district cellar to holding high the 4-5A championship trophy.

And it felt awfully good.

"You have no idea how hard it has been," said GHS senior goalkeeper Zach Adams. "It's tough to explain. We've been through a lot of adversity and we persevered."

Adams has been a big reason behind the turnaround, which now sees GHS 18-6-3 heading into next Thursday's home regional against Jacksonville Bartram Trail, which lost 4-1 to Fleming Island in the District 3 final.

Called the "glue" of the team by coach Jeremy Witt, Adams made countless saves in regulation against the Knights, a story in their own having reached the final as the sixth seed.

"I told Zach before the game that we'd need two out of this world saves from him and he did that in the first half (in the 21st and 30th minutes)," said Witt, whose team went 1-0-1 against Vanguard in the regular season. "And then he kept coming through for us time after time."

The biggest save came during penalty kicks.

After the Knights' Justin Ciambella and the Hurricanes' Steven Badinga each scored in the first round, Adams stopped Timothy Guinn's attempt before Michael O'Connor beat Vanguard keeper Colin Corpe up the middle for a 2-1 lead. The Knights' Adam Hasan then booted his try over the crossbar before GHS's Stephen Campbell found the left corner of the net to give the top seed a 3-1 advantage.

Corpe then scored on his attempt. Unfortunately for Vanguard, the Hurricanes' Michael Bird followed with a shot to the top left corner that gave GHS the hard-fought win.

"I was worried it wasn't going to go our way," Witt said. "I think, despite their seed, Vanguard was the best team in the district along with us. They play hard and are well-coached (by Tom Flynn).

"And after upsetting two teams to get here, they seemed like a team of destiny, and teams of destiny usually win games like this."

Witt's players might argue one did.

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