The Grace Christian School boys soccer team, out of the Florida Christian Conference, has been a well-oiled machine recently, winning their sixth straight state championship, beating Land O’ Lakes 2-0. The Patriots reached the Division II National Championship game for the first time since 1998 but came up a little bit short, losing in a shootout after being tied 0-0 the whole game.
“It was an honor to be on a team that went to the national finals for the first time in over 20 years,” said Adrain Torres.
Grace Christian had one of its most successful seasons in the school’s history, ending with a record of 19-2-1. Head Coach Josiah Winter, who played for Grace Christian from 1997-2001, said that his team had great balance overall. He said that although his team had a lot of talent on the field and many players contributed to the team’s success, they were able to work together, accept their roles and gel as a team. The Patriots only allowed six goals against in conference play the entire season, a school record.
“Doing so well in Florida helped us bring our confidence up to nationals to face really good competition,” said defender Noah Oldaker.
Winter played in the team’s last national title appearance in 1998. He led his team to four state championships as a forward for the Patriots. It meant everything to him to bring his alma mater back to the national championship game as head coach. Winter has been coaching at Grace Christian since 2005.
“Getting to coach such a big game was pretty cool,” said Winter. “Winning it would have been even better.”
Key players include veteran defenders Matthew Dudley, sweeper Oldaker and seniors Elias Thomas and Chris Weaver, who were paramount to the Patriots’ elite defense. Rookie senior goalie Anthony Lebrum was essential to the team’s run with several great performances during the season. Midfielders Kendal Welton, Julian Torres and Gio Rivera contributed with a combined 37 goals and 32 assists, while forwards Adrian Torres, Elier Santiago and Josiah Chadwell added a combined 44 goals and 33 assists up front on offense.
Grace Christian has built depth within its program so that they can sustain their success for even longer. The team will return eight starters next season, and they have a nice blend of seventh through 12th graders.
“We are returning a good core of our players next year and look forward to what the future holds for Grace soccer,” said Winter. “We constantly have a target on our back and look forward to the challenge every year.”
The team is hungry to go back to the national championship game next year and win it all.
“We’re gonna work harder this off-season for next year,” said Dudley.