“We believe that we will win,” was the constant chant all night from the small but loud and loyal Gulliver Prep student body.
Turns out, they were right as they watched their boys’ soccer team win a second consecutive state title on Thursday night as the Raiders defeated Jacksonville Bolles 3-1 in the Class 2A state championship game at Eastern Florida State College.
Gulliver did it with a near dominating performance as the Raiders owned close to a 4-1 advantage in time of possession, thanks mostly to the fact that Bolles played a laid-back, packed-in style of defense for the first three-fourths of the game.
“We actually thought [Bolles] would come out and press us and go after the game, and they did completely the opposite,” Gulliver coach Matias Asorey said. “They sat back and put a lot of pressure on us to break down their defense. We felt that if we got a goal, they would have to come out of their shell, and they still didn’t.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
That goal Asorey and the Raiders (18-2) were looking for came just eight seconds before halftime when Alex Mozlarzadeh, with the clock inside of 15 seconds, fired a pass from the corner in front of the net that Alberto Kike Poleo one-touched out to Augusto Acosta who left-footed it into the top left corner of the net.
Incredibly, Bolles continued to play its packed-in defensive style into the second half despite the one- goal deficit.
Once Gulliver’s Andy Alvarez popped in Gulliver’s second goal just 15 seconds after the second-half water break to give the Raiders a 2-0 lead, did the Bulldogs finally come out of their defensive shell.
And, with just under eight minutes left, it paid off when Bolles’ Anthony Teixeira knocked a loose ball past Gulliver keeper Esteban Sapentnizky to cut the Raiders’ lead in half and add some drama to the finish.
But, with the Bulldogs (20-8-1) pressing hard offensively, it left them vulnerable defensively and sure enough, Alvarez knifed a perfect pass up the middle from midfield that Mozlarzadeh split through two Bolles defenders to create a one-on-one down the middle of the field with Bolles goalkeeper Alex Lucansky.
Mozlarzadeh juked a diving Lucansky to get past him and barely got to the ball before it went out of bounds and knocked it in the bottom right corner of the net to clinch the Raiders’ sixth state title.
“Andy fed me a great ball down the middle and just like that I found myself at midfield with only the ’keeper there,” said Mozlarzadeh. “I just looked back to see if anyone was behind me and when nobody was, it was just a matter of dribbling and waiting for the keeper to make the first step. Once I got it past him, it was a matter of getting to the ball before it went out of bounds and I got there. Scoring that goal meant the world to me because I knew it had clinched our second straight state title and for this to be my last game and go out that way, it’s like a dream.”
“I had no idea how much time was left, I’m just glad I was able to get a left foot on it and knock it in,” said Acosta of his buzzer-beating goal just before halftime. “I practice left foot shots once in a while and it paid off there. I was shocked when they came out in the second half and kept playing the same style.”
It also avenged Gulliver’s 1-0 loss to the same team two years ago in the state title game which was not lost on the players.
“Revenge was nice, we really wanted to beat Bolles because the pain of losing to them two years ago was still fresh in our minds,” said Alvarez. “What a way to close out my high school career. I’m so happy for all the seniors on this team.”
“Back to back? I’m just happy for the kids, they deserve it, they put in the work, they wanted it, they won the big games that they had to win,” said Asorey who had been hesitant about any back-to-back talk the last few weeks. “Overall I’m just proud of them. We just really came together at the right time. Since the playoffs started, we’ve been on fire and it showed out there again tonight.”
STATE BOYS’ SOCCER FINALS
When: Through Saturday.
Where: Eastern Florida State College, 3865 N. Wickham Road, Melbourne.
Admission: $9 per session.
Thursday’s results – Class 3A semifinals: Land O’Lakes Sunlake vs. Fort Walton Beach Choctawhatchee, inc.; Immokalee vs. Merritt Island, inc.; Class 1A final: Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic vs. Orangewood Christian, inc.; Class 2A final: Gulliver vs. Jacksonville Bolles, inc.
Friday’s schedule – Class 4A semifinals: Tallahassee Chiles vs. Wesley Chapel Wiregrass Ranch, 10 a.m.; Naples Barron Collier vs. Palm Beach Lakes, 12:30; Class 5A semifinals: Orlando Freedom vs. Winter Garden West Orange, 3; Cypress Bay vs. Haines City, 5:30; Class 3A final: 8.
Saturday’s schedule – Class 4A final: noon; Class 5A final: 3.