Tigers top Trinity Christian 5-1 in Class 1A regional final

Holy Trinity makes 1st trip to state semifnals


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Holy Trinity's Joye Oni (No. 11) was one of five players to score a goal in the Tigers 5-1 victory over Trinity Christian in the Class 1A regional final

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

There is really only one way to describe what happened to the Holy Trinity boys soccer team in its third attempt to win a regional championship and advance to the state Final Four.

“It was just an amazing night, really,” Tigers coach James Phillips said. “Amazing.”

Holy Trinity’s 5-1 victory over visiting Trinity Christian on Friday night put the Tigers (18-2-2) into the Class 1A Final Four for the first time in school history.

“I’ve been on the varsity team for three years and finally getting through, winning the regional final was probably the best feeling,” senior Barrett Hess said. “I honestly was speechless when (the ref) blew the whistle. I didn’t even know what to do. I kind of just stood there and I was just … I couldn’t have been happier.”

The Tigers will play defending state champion Orangewood Christian (18-0-3) Monday at 5 p.m. in the state semifinals.

Holy Trinity is on a seven-game winning streak and has won nine of its past 10 games, including a win over last year’s state finalist, Santa Fe Catholic in the regional semifinals.

Getting past Orangewood Christian will be a challenge, but it’s one the Tigers are ready for. After all, this is what they’ve been working for since going out in the regional quarterfinals last year.

And if the regional final against Trinity Christian was any indication, Holy Trinity is playing some high-quality soccer right now.

“We played really well (Friday) night, but we can definitely play better than we did,” Hess said. “I know we can beat both teams that are up next if we play our absolute best.”

If the Tigers needed any signs that Friday’s regional final was going to go better than its previous two tries in 2009 and 2012 (both shutout losses), it came in the game’s opening minutes when Nico Rousseau drilled a shot into the upper corner of the net to give Holy Trinity a 1-0 lead.

Then came a moment that Phillips called a “real game-changer.”

The Tigers were called for a penalty in the box, giving Orangewood Christian a penalty kick and chance to tie the game …

Until Holy Trinity goalkeeper Ricky Berthiaume dove to his right and blocked the shot.

“I was going right the whole time, really,” Berthiaume said “I had decided, and by his run-up, I knew I was definitely not going to change my mind. I was going to go right.

“I dove for the corner, and he hit it more central, so I had to close my feet together and stick it out and hope that it hit (my leg). It eventually hit me in the shin and just flew off, so it worked out.”

It worked out so well, that Berthiaume’s save fired up and inspired his teammates.

“I know if they would have scored, our mentality would definitely have changed, because then it would have been 1-1,” Hess said. “But when he saved that ball, everyone was pumped up. Everyone was ready for it. Everyone was just like, ‘Let’s go back to scoring more goals.’”

And that they did.

Joye Oni, Hess and Carlo Campanini all scored to give the Tigers a 4-0 lead, and when Trinity Christian finally did break through and score a goal, Holy Trinity’s Gabe Soh answered to make it 5-1.

And with that, the Tigers were able to shake off their past frustrations.

It happened, in part, because of two things: Senior leadership and their mental approach.

It’s been well-documented this year’s team is led by its 13 seniors - Alex Hernandez-Pryszlak, Hess, Brandon Boyd, Soh, Luca Campanini, Joshua Moisand, Justin Ganiban, Matt Austin, Jore Oni, Joye Oni, Nico Rousseau, Noah Benjamin and Berthiaume – plus talented younger players like Carlo Campanini.

But the continuity with which this group displays is a tremendous strength.

“Things click between us,” Hess said. “We’ve been playing for years together, so everyone knows each other. Everyone knows what kids are best at, and how they play. The connection between everyone is just great.”

As for the team’s mentality, the Tigers won’t get caught up in the moment of playing in a big game like a regional final or a state semifinal because they don’t put any extra pressure on themselves.

“It’s the same thing as any other game, really,” Berthiaume said. “You’re just playing another game. The only thing that’s different is all the other people that are around and all the rest of the events that are happening. On the field, it’s the same game as any other.”

Monday’s semifinal will be a rematch of a game played on Dec. 18 in Maitland.

“We tied 1-1 in a very even, competitive game,” Phillips said. “You never know what’s going to happen, but I’m expecting it to be close, a bit of a coin flip, really.”