All season long, Gulliver Prep boys’ soccer players used two words to describe a year-long mission: “Unfinished business.”
And on Saturday afternoon, the Raiders stormed the center of the field in mass celebration following their 5-1 dismantling of Orlando Bishop Moore in the Class 2A state championship game at Eastern Florida State College.
It was a year ago almost to the day that the Raiders suffered a painful 1-0 loss to Jacksonville Bolles on a late goal in the state championship game and had vowed to get back and get things right.
Even though they had to wait an unscheduled extra two days following their 9-1 mercy-ruling of Pensacola Catholic in Wednesday’s state semifinal due to weather postponements, waiting an extra couple of days after waiting 12 months wasn’t a problem.
“It’s finished — finally,” said junior Alex Moztarzadeh, who had a goal and an assist. “It feels so good to be on the winners side and putting on those first place medals and not the runner-up medals for sure.
“We just remembered that empty feeling last year of having to sit there and watch [Bolles] put their winning medals around their neck and take pictures with the championship trophy. Today was our turn to pose with that trophy.”
The championship was the fifth for Gulliver boys’ soccer program and first since 2006. Gulliver also won titles in 1992, ‘99 and 2000. The Raiders also became the first Miami-Dade County boys’ team to win a state title since Varela in 2008.
“It’s nice to say you’re going to come back the next year and win the state championship, but it’s something that’s very hard to do,” said Gulliver coach Matias Asorey, whose team finished 22-1-1. “So, every time we played a team, we were the big name on their schedule.
“I give these kids a lot of credit. They played hard all season long, the fact that they got themselves back in this position and performed says a lot about the group and the kids that we have.”
Asorey watched as his players struggled for most of the first half, creating virtually no scoring chances while fending off a couple of Bishop Moore opportunities thanks to a couple of nice saves by Gulliver keeper Esteban Sapentnizky.
Just before halftime, Andy Alvarez knocked a corner kick dead center into a pile of players. When Bishop Moore keeper Alex Uribe couldn’t handle it, Zane Van de Put got his foot on the loose ball and kicked it in for a 1-0 lead.
“There was a corner, and we do this play where we make like a little pick so I could be free,” said Van de Put. “The first ball I missed it, but then I saw it hit off a player and the ball came right back to me and I put it away.
“When we went into the locker room we were all screaming and pumped up and said this was our moment and felt really good that we were going to get it done.”
Nine minutes into the second half, Moztarzadeh got free down low and fired a shot at Uribe who stopped it but the rebound went right to Alvarez who knocked it in for an all-important second goal.
“I started feeling comfortable after the second goal,” said Asorey. “Not because of the score, but because of the way we were playing. I knew that once we started possessing the ball and moving it quickly, it’s very difficult for a team to bounce back from that.”
With 22:36 left, Asorey watched the slam-dunk goal when Moztarzadeh knocked one home off an assist from Lou Diego to make it 3-0.
Even though the Hornets (26-5-1) scored with just under 18 minutes left to make it 3-1 and get their fans momentarily excited, the excitement last for all of 90 seconds as Diego took a perfect centering through pass down the middle from Alvarez and easily beat Uribe to make it 4-1 with 15:53 left.
Jesus Bolivar scored with nine minutes left to complete the scoring.
“We were struggling in the beginning of the game to find the offense we were looking for to attack and that goal just before halftime really helped us,” Asorey said. “In fact it really changed the game.
“We came out in the second half a lot looser and we were able to start playing our style and I think once we got into a rhythm, and that was the difference.”
And as postgame interviews with players concluded, Alvarez walked off with one lost comment.
“It’s done,” he said. “Business is finished.”