Viera boys soccer rocked hard by district final loss

Melbourne tops Viera on penalty kicks


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Viera High's Evan Kirrane goes high for the ball during Friday night's Class 4A, District 6 championship game. After trailing for most of the game, the Hawks tied it up with just over two minutes left before losing in overtime on penalty kicks.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

The heartbreak was obvious.

But so was their resolve.

As members of the Viera High boys soccer team grabbed their gear after losing the Class 4A, District 6 championship to Melbourne on penalty kicks, at least one player could be heard reminding his teammates they still have work to do.

And that’s true.

As much as the 1-1 (5-4) loss stings, Viera (12-4-2) has a date with District 5 winner Windermere (15-2-1) in the Class 4A regional quarterfinals Wednesday night at 7.

Should the Hawks get past Windermere, and Melbourne defeat Lake Minneola in its regional quarterfinal, the Hawks and Bulldogs would meet again in the regional semifinals.

That would be something to see.

Viera and Melbourne played yet another intense, physical – almost too physical at times – game that once again went down to the wire.

Friday night’s drama began almost from the start when Melbourne’s starting goalkeeper was injured and replaced by freshman Derek Mertz just four minutes into the contest.

Ten minutes later, the Bulldogs had a 1-0 lead.

Mertz, meanwhile, came up with some nice saves to help the Bulldogs preserve the lead while Viera keeper James Leonard was also up to the task.

The score stayed 1-0 until Viera’s Patrick Murtha found the back of the net with 2:17 remaining to knot things up at 1-1. After two scoreless 10-minute overtime periods, the game went to penalty kicks.

Robbie Murtha, Mads Jensen and Stephen McHale all connected on their penalty tries and after a Melbourne shot went wide, the Hawks had a 3-2 lead after three rounds.

However, Viera would be denied on its next two attempts and Melbourne eventually tied it up at 3-3.

Viera’s Nathan Brooker would put the Hawks up 4-3, but after Melbourne tied it up, the Hawks would miss their next shot and the Bulldogs converted to secure the win.

It was a tough loss for the Hawks to stomach, particularly since they had beaten the Bulldogs earlier in the season to help them secure the No. 1 seed in the tournament.

“At the end of the day, it’s never easy losing on penalties,” Viera coach Nick Robinson said. “It’s a really hard game to digest right now, to be honest.

“We had some good chances early on in the game We didn’t capitalize on those chances. Probably didn’t do enough over the entire span of the game to say we deserved to win it. You’ve got to give credit to Mel(bourne). They snatched the goal and defended for their life.”

And while the Hawks were certainly frustrated with not being able to convert on their chances, the players could be heard encouraging each other and that the goal would eventually come.

It may have taken longer than they hoped, but eventually Patrick Murtha put one in the goal.

“I’ve got to give credit to my boys, too,” Robinson said. “They kept fighting and fighting. They kept plugging away. Unfortunately, when it goes to pens, you’re just rolling the dice.”

The important thing now is for the Hawks to figure out a way to bounce back in time for Wednesday’s game against was should be a very good Windermere team.

That’s one area Robinson is not concerned about.

“The one thing this group has been throughout the year is resilient,” he said. “We’ve faced a lot of adversity. We’ve had some bad results, but we’ve had some really good results.

“On any given day, I know what this team is capable of. Unfortunately, we didn’t play our best tonight. But the boys still worked hard and they were committed for the cause.

“I can’t fault them for that. We just didn’t execute when we needed to.”