Article Written by Jason Beede beedefoto.com, HSPN Sports Student Intern – Key West High School
It was a tough matchup for the Key West High School boys’ and girls’ soccer program Thursday evening on the road against state powerhouse Gulliver Prep. The games were a chance for Key West to show what they were made of and in typical Conch fashion, they didn’t go down without a fight.
After not giving up a goal all season long, the defending 2A State Champions Gulliver Prep boys’ escaped a physical game with a 4-2 victory. As for the ladies, the Raiders defeated the Conchs 2-0. However, there is more to the game than just the final score.
Heading into the match, head coach Marc Pierre’s squad was not afraid of Gulliver, but many players doubted any success according to Pierre.
“At first, we were coming here and some of the boys were already thinking before the game had even started that we were going to get mercy-ruled by Gulliver. This wasn’t the case. We played just as hard as they did,” said Pierre.
The conditions for the game were just like any other in South Florida: hot, muddy, and a messy field. However, that did not stop Key West as the Conchs would score in the first 10 minutes.
Senior Spencer Hamilton attempted to pass the ball up top to junior Adam Swiecicki, but the defender would tap it midair and let it bounce. Sprinting past the side of the defender, Junior Bidieu Noel would end up with the ball and find himself one-on-one on with the Gulliver Prep goalie. Noel would score for Key West in the 10th minute giving the Conchs a 1-0 advantage.
What should have been a 2-0 lead for the Conchs heading into halftime, turned into a 1-1 tie after a controversial set of plays. Amid the confusion, Key West had a goal nullified, a yellow card given to Pierre and a goal by Gulliver Prep.
“We scored a second goal on a throw-in. One referee called offsides and the other referee called it a foul on the goalkeeper. How are you going to call offsides on a throw-in? The goal was denied and I walked on the field to request an explanation,” said Pierre.
As the Key West coach walked onto the field, the Raiders were already playing. While Pierre was receiving a yellow card, the Conch defense had been caught off guard as Gulliver was looking to score. The Raiders tied the game and the score stood at 1-1 heading into halftime.
In the 55th minute, the Raiders grabbed a hold of a 2-1 lead. However, Key West would bounce right back. Junior Brian Coward found the back of the net despite being surrounded by three defenders. Coward placed the ball right out of reach of the goalie’s hands, tying the game at 2 apiece in the 61st minute.
After the final water break, Gulliver Prep took care of business and proved why they are defending state champs. The Raiders would hold on and score two more goals before the final whistle blew walking away with a 4-2 victory over the southernmost soccer team.
“The referees were calling the game how it was supposed to go. I don’t want to blame the whole loss on the refs, however, there were some questionable calls. Both teams were very physical. Hopefully, when we play them again, we will play even harder. The result today shows we can,” said Pierre.
“I think Key West did a good job. They put a lot of pressure on us. They had a lot of energy. We’ll have to break them down and we’ll have to be better next time we play them,” said Gulliver Prep head coach Matias Asorey.
This was the first time this season that Gulliver Prep (7-0) had been scored against after winning last year’s FHSAA Class 2A State Championship over Bishop Moore (Orlando).
“It is part of the game. Teams score against you,” said Asorey when asked about finally being scored on by an opposing team this year.
As for the Lady Conchs, who were playing at a different campus, the game was tied 0-0 at halftime. Six minutes into the second half, Gulliver Prep broke the tie and scored on one of its six corner kicks.
Key West keeper Alana Estenoz was able to put a hand on the ball and deflect it, but it landed near the far post and the Raiders were able to score.
We knew that the game was going to be a 1-0 or a 2-1 with the way we have been playing, but we had hoped to have it in our favor,” said Key West head coach Scott Paul.
Junior Angela Niles had an opportunity early in the game to score for the Conchs. Niles sped past the defenders and set up a one-on-one situation with the Raiders’ goalie. However, the shot went right into the hands of the keeper.
Mid second half, fatigue took a toll on the Lady Conchs and it was obvious according to Coach Paul.
“We had settled into our regular players, but the backline of Emmy Hamilton and Camden Switzer hadn’t taken a breather all game. The two gave as much as they had,” said Paul.
The Raiders would seal the deal by scoring late in the game off of a penalty kick from their keeper. The goalie buried the ball past Estenoz and Key West was unable to recover. Gulliver Prep held on to the lead and would improve to (9-1-1) on the season with a 2-0 victory over the Conchs.
Despite the loss, Paul seemed proud of his team.
“This was big for us. I guarantee that we gained a lot of respect from them after the way we played tonight. This was a great team effort and we plan to see them again in the District finals if we get our way,” said Paul.
Up next for both teams was supposed to be Pinecrest Prep tomorrow at home, but the games were cancelled for unknown reasons. The Lady Conchs (5-6-1 overall, 2-2 District 16-2A) next game will be at home against Coral Shores on the 15th.
As for the boys (8-3 overall, 4-2 District 16-2A), they don’t play again until the 18th when both teams travel to play American Heritage. Out of 559 teams in the state of Florida, the boys’ team is currently ranked 99th, while the ladies’ squad are right behind them at 173rd according to MaxPreps.
Despite returning home with two losses, Key West left with a sense of newfound confidence and now looks towards a possible matchup in the District 16 Championship game against Gulliver Prep later this season. However, there is plenty to be dealt out on the pitch before the district playoffs. One thing is for sure: this is Florida soccer and no one is safe.