Hawks dominate Sebastian River to set up district final showdown
Viera to play Melbourne on Friday
Viera High's Stephen McHale looks the ball in during Wednesday night's Class 4A, District 6 semifinal against Sebastian River. The Hawks won the game 3-0 to advance to the title game against Melbourne.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
It’s been building up to this for four years.
And Friday night, the Viera High boys soccer team is ready to take its shot.
By defeating Sebastian River 3-0 in Wednesday night’s Class 4A, District 6 semifinals, the top-seeded Hawks set up a championship game Friday night against arch-rival Melbourne.
The title game, which is set for 7 p.m., will be a rematch of last year’s final and mark the fourth straight year the Hawks (12-4-1) and Bulldogs (15-4-4) have met in the district playoffs.
Viera, which beat Melbourne 2-0 earlier this season, will be seeking their second district championship – their first since the 2010-11 season. The Hawks have also qualified for the FHSAA playoffs for the fifth time in program history.
To get that title, the Hawks are going to have to beat the team that has defeated them in three straight postseason matchups which the current seniors have experienced.
Now they’re going to get one more shot. And they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Yeah, for sure,” Hawks coach Nick Robinson said. “It’s a good chance for the boys to embrace the challenge that’s ahead.”
Viera was able to get past Sebastian River thanks to three first half goals by Nathan Brooker, Patrick Murtha and Mads Jensen.
Although Sebastian River was able to mount more of an attack in the second half, the Sharks couldn’t get anything past Viera goalkeeper James Leonard, who got the shutout.
“We definitely started off the game the way we wanted to start off,” Robinson said. “We put them on their back foot early, which was one of our goals. We were able to capitalize early on two set pieces, which we’ve been good at all year.
“Overall, I was definitely happy with the first half. The second half, we didn’t capitalize. I thought we were still good enough, but we weren’t able to put a couple of goals in the back of the net.”
Brooker said he thought he and his teammates played well and that everyone put in a “good shift” throughout the game.
“I was pretty happy coming off (the field),” he said. “Obviously, we got the win. And obviously, we’re looking for another gear to push into Friday night. We’ll do some training Thursday and come out Friday and see how everything sets up.”
Having beaten Sebastian River 5-0 on the road just a few weeks ago to secure the No. 1 seed in the district playoffs, the Hawks were aware of what they needed to do Wednesday night.
But mostly, their concentration was on staying mentally focused on the task at hand and not letting up.
“Our biggest enemy this year has just been us,” Brooker said. “That’s the story of Viera. It’s always been us, killing ourselves. The thing to do was to make sure we kept ourselves motivated and kept ourselves in line on the bench and made sure we put in a solid performance.”
Melbourne, which defeated Heritage 3-1 in Wednesday night’s earlier semifinal, will be looking for its eighth straight district title when the Bulldogs and Hawks face off Friday night.
It will be the first time the teams have played since Nov. 13, and it figures to be another intense matchup.
“We know they’re a lot better than the first time we played them and we beat them,” Robinson said. “But we also feel we’re better, too. It’s going to be a close game no matter what.
“It always is. Mel-Hi, Viera … in the final. It’s the challenge this group of boys want. We’re looking forward to it.”