By Ryan Butler

Though they didn’t advance themselves, the Riverview High School team hosted a successful 5A-7 district soccer tournament that saw Plant and Newsome progress to represent the area in the region tournament.

By advancing to the district championship game, the Panthers and Wolves both move onto the next round after a 3-1 Plant victory in the championship game.

After jumping out to an early lead against the Panthers in the championship game, three unanswered goals proved the difference in the game.

The Wolves’ Ajay Sequeria scored in the game’s opening moments but his team didn’t get another score in the game. Meanwhile Plant got goals from Connor Forsyth in the first half and the go-ahead goal off the foot of Seth Rinkevich in the second half.  Auston Molina secured the district championship with an easy goal set up on a break away with under five minutes remaining in the game.

The Sharks, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, were upset by an aggressive Panthers’ side in the semi-finals.  Plant, the No. 3 seed, started eight seniors against a Sharks side with only four 12th-grade starters.

Down 3-0 late in the second half, Riverview began pressuring the net. Sophomore Marc Lozada finally broke the shut-out with a fourth-minute goal, but it was too little too late. James Talka wrapped up the win for the Panthers after scoring off an easy break away with a little more than 10 minutes left in the game. His goal capped off first-half scores from seniors Luis Zapata and Kevin Atari.

Riverview saw more success in its 4-2 quarterfinal win over Alonso. Tied at two with under ten minutes remaining, Saige Julien knocked home the go-ahead goal. The sophomore then celebrated with a fist pump and visible expression of relief after putting his team in position to avoid the upset against the tournament’s lowest seeded team. Cody Purtell clinched the win minutes later with another goal.

The hosts were worried after losing a 2-0 lead in the second half. Beautiful out-of-the-box blasts from Kevin Gonzalez and Kevin Minkovitz minutes apart tied the game half way through the second half and put the Ravens in position for an upset. The long-distance scores wiped out the lead built up from scores by Lozada and Julien.

On the other side of the bracket, the top-seeded Wolves came out on top in the tournament’s most exciting game.  After Wharton’s Kiran Basu missed his opportunity in the first of the sudden death penalty kicks, Newsome’s Tim Maine’s nailed the winner.

Both teams made three penalty kicks after neither team could score in the second half or either over time period.

Wharton, the No. 4 seed, hung surprisingly tight with the top-seeded Wolves.  Ajay Sequeria made a great individual effort to get through the Wildcats’ defense in the box and blast home a goal for the Wolves in the 29th minute. But Wharton responded seconds later with the equalizer after a scrum outside the net. The two teams would each get several scoring opportunities the rest of the game but neither could knock home the winning goal.

The Wildcats had another nail bitter in their tournament opener. Basu goal late in the second half of his team’s game against Durant proved the difference in a 1-0 win.

Senior Goalie Keenan Kushner held off the Couger’s attack while securing a shut-out, including a huge save on a penalty kick.

“It was a phenomenal effort. There’s a lot to look forward to next season,” said Durant head coach William Tunstall.  “I’m extremely happy with it because of the time they’ve put into it.”

Bloomingdale was also one-and-done after a 5-1 loss to the Panthers in its first-round game.

“We did our best competing but we were just outmatched by Plant. They were the better team,” said Bulls head coach Troy Smith.

Smith said that he realigned his team to put more attackers to try to overcome a first-half deficit. But Blooomingdale couldn’t crack Plant’s defense and it turn opened up easy scoring opportunities for the Panthers.


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Kelly Wise Valdes
Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.