Gulliver Prep players Andy Alvarez and Alexander Moztarzadeh both said the same thing when interviewed after the game.
“We’ve got unfinished business.”
The unfinished business they speak of is the Gulliver boys’ soccer team’s quest for a state title, something they came up painfully short of a year ago when they lost to Jacksonville Bolles in the title game.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Raiders played like a team clearly on a mission as they scored just 38 seconds into the game and never stopped scoring after that, routing Pensacola Catholic 9-1 in a Class 2A state semifinal game at Eastern Florida State College.
But they’ll have to wait a while. Because of severe weather in the area Wednesday night, the Orlando Bishop Moore-Tampa Berkeley game was suspended with the game scoreless 18 minutes in. The game will resume at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the original time slot for the 2A title game. The championship game was rescheduled for noon Saturday.
Pensacola Catholic (18-6-0) was making its first final-four appearance since 1998, third all-time and played like a team lacking final-four experience.
The game was stopped with 22:57 left when Alberto Poleo knocked in his second goal of the day, instituting the eight-goal differential mercy rule.
“Before we came to the game [Wednesday], we watched the last three minutes of that Bolles game last year,” Gulliver coach Matias Asorey said. “I just wanted to remind them of the pain everyone felt and how close we were, letting it slip away and make sure we don’t let that opportunity slip away again. This is an amazing group. It’s hard to make it all the way back to the state final after losing it the previous year. They deserve it, and you can see how bad they want it.”
Asorey could only watch with delight as Alvarez scored on a breakaway off a great through pass by Moztarzadeh just 38 seconds into the game and just nine minutes later Moztarzadeh setting up another score by centering a perfect ball in front that Alvarez right-footed in to make it 2-0.
“You always want to try and score as early as you can, because when we have control of the game, we know not many teams can beat us,” Moztarzadeh said. “So the earlier we can get control, the better off we’re going to be. When we score first, the other team starts to chase the game, which allows us to possess the ball more, and when we possess the ball more, other teams get frustrated and we take them out of their game.”
“We came out [Wednesday] thinking this would be just as tough as the Heritage game,” said Alvarez, referring to Gulliver’s 2-0 victory over Delray American Heritage in the regional final.
“So we wanted to come out strong with the same intensity, and it worked out because we got in front early.”
The Gulliver blitz continued for the remainder of the first half.
Chris Araujo scored off an assist from Alvarez at the 25:16 mark to make it 3-0, Adriano Castro, the team’s leading scorer with 16 goals, made it 4-0 off an assist from Araujo at 14:22, and Zane Van de Put wrapped up the first half with 11:08 left off another assist from Alvarez.
About the only thing the Raiders did wrong all day was get caught napping on a corner kick in the final minute of the first half, allowing the Crusaders to score their only goal to make it 5-1.
Patricio Hernandez, Mark Verwaay and Poleo (twice) scored second-half goals to finish things up.
“I think the size of the field, being a grass field really benefited us [Wednesday],” Asorey said. “We were able to spread them out. We have a lot of attacking options that are dangerous, and we had them on right from the beginning.”
Said Alvarez: “We really didn’t know what to expect other than the fact that they beat the team [Jacksonville Bolles] in the regional final that beat us in the championship game last year. But we just wanted to come out and do what we do and not worry about anyone else.”
And then Alvarez said it one last time as he walked away, something none of his teammates will argue with.
“We want to finish what we didn’t do last year,” Alvarez said. “We’ve got unfinished business.”