By Jack DaSilva
With the season winding down, the Gainesville High School boys’ soccer team has found momentum in their last couple of games with 8-0 wins over Vanguard (Ocala) and city rival Buchholz.
Gainesville (9-4-5), which will play its regular season finale against Santa Fe (Alachua) on Thursday night at Kanapaha Park, is hoping the new-found offensive success will carry over into next week’s 4A-District 2 tournament at Lincoln (Tallahassee).
“We’re not doing as well as we came into the season thinking we were going to do, but all in all I think we actually have made a run,” said second-year coach Basil Benjamin, who coached at Gainesville “many moons ago” before moving on to P.K. Yonge as a head coach, followed by a stint at Oak Hall. “We were having problems scoring early in the season.”
Benjamin says they’ve since solved the team’s scoring problems by doing scenarios in practice that were similar to the games to give his team a better understanding of where to go with the ball. He believes his team can beat anyone they play and is confident in the team’s ability to have success in the post season.
“We have either beaten or tied every team in the district who is ahead of us,” he noted. “They are all teams that we can and will beat.”
Last year as the No. 3 seed, the ‘Canes knocked off top-seed Chiles (Tallahassee) en route to winning the district title.
Senior Andrew Knechel gave a great summary of the team’s performance this year when he said, “It’s kind of difficult because last year we had some good offensive talent, and we still have that, but we’ve lost a lot of those players so it’s difficult.”
The Hurricanes lost a close 2-1 game at Chiles (Tallahassee), next week’s quarterfinal opponent, on December 12, but they beat the Timberwolves on November 11 in Tallahassee.
“We came in and found it difficult to score because the district is really close,” said Knechel. “We won our first district game and we’ve been tying a lot of them, but also we’ve been losing a couple close ones so the district is really close.”
They also lost at top-seed Leon (Tallahassee), 2-1, and played the Lions to a 0-0 draw at home on Dec. 6.
“We’ve just been getting the bad end of a lot of close results,” explained Knechel. “I think every team in that district has a chance to win it. I just think we need to start ‘clicking’ offensively going into those district games because I think we really have a chance because that’s what we were struggling with in those district games is scoring multiple goals.”
Senior Tyler Winkel, who kicked this past fall for the GHS football team, has also found success on the pitch.
“It’s going good this year,” he said. “I’ve been scoring more and I’ve also played as Center Back but he (Coach Benjamin) moved me up to Striker when we needed a few goals scored. But I like playing both positions.”
As the season winds down some teams still haven’t found their identity as a group, but for the Hurricanes, they’ve found theirs in the offense.
In the win against Buchholz, senior Jesse Noss had five goals.
“I told him that’s one for the ages,” said Benjamin. “He’s going to tell his grandkids about that.”
Junior Chris Clavier also believes the Hurricanes are a good team and have made a tremendous improvement to their offense over the course of the season.
“It’s been an up and down season, but overall we’ve improved greatly and we’re playing really well going into districts,” he said. “The offense is getting more opportunities and they’re putting them away, and we’re really looking like a good team now.”
The Hurricanes have had a roller coaster of a season but they are currently on a two-game win streak heading into the last game of the 206-17 regular season, followed by next week’s postseason tournament.
With changes to the team’s offensive strategy, the ‘Canes have been scoring more and propose a certain threat to any team they face.
Ranked as the fourth seed in their district, GHS is ready to make a push in next week’s district tournament and have their sights set on the state tournament once again.
Gainesville will face 5th-seeded Chiles in the district quarterfinals. If they win, they will have to knock off top-seeded Leon in the district semifinals to advance to the FHSAA postseason.
GHS boys’ soccer was a guest on “The Prep Zone” show at Sonic on Wednesday. Click here to listen to the archive.