Hawks get their wish … and another crack at boys district soccer title

Viera tops Harmony 3-0 in semifinals


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Viera goalkeeper Andrew Sanger goes high to knock away a ball in the box during Tuesday's Class 6A, District 12 boys soccer semifinal against Harmony. Sanger and the Hawks got the shutout as Viera won 3-0 to reach Thursday's title game.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

The Viera High boys soccer team put on a dominating performance Tuesday night in the Class 6A, District 12 semifinals.

And the best may be yet to come.

Stephen McHale, Lucas Patikas and Mads Jensen all scores and the Hawks defense shut down a determined Harmony offense as Viera defeated the Longhorns 3-0 at Melbourne High’s Tom McIntyre Stadium.

The win puts Viera (17-1-2) into Thursday night’s district championship game, where the Hawks will face the host Bulldogs. Melbourne (17-3-1) defeated South Fork 3-0 on Tuesday’s other semifinal.

The Hawks and Bulldogs tied 1-1 in their regular-season meeting.

“I still think we’ve got another gear to go,” Viera coach Nick Robinson said. “That’s how I’ve felt all year. In terms of the defensive display, tonight I’m very happy with the clean sheet, for sure.

“A lot of what we’re built on is defensively. I’m always confident that if we can keep a clean sheet, we’ll be able to score one goal, two goals or three goals like tonight.”

The Hawks got on the board twice in the first half.

The first goal came on a corner kick by John Anasa that went toward the back post and was finished off by McHale. It became 2-0 when Connor Floyd got the ball out wide and found Zachary Nielsen, who crossed into the box where Patikas was there for the finish.

Jensen scored the third goal for the Hawks in the second half, yet another sign the senior is fully healthy after missing most of the season with an ankle injury.

One of the Hawks’ top scoring threats, Jensen said he was glad to not only be back playing with his teammates, but also in time for the postseason.

“That’s what I was looking forward to, being back now for the important games,” Jensen said. “The team did well and they took care of business when I wasn’t there. I’m proud of them.”

Harmony (12-4-5) made a concerted effort to launch quick counter attacks against Viera and really tried to press the action against the Hawks.

But Viera’s backline of keeper Andrew Sanger, McHale, Evan Kirrane and Tibor Susanj proved to be up to the challenge.

“We were able to control the ball a lot, which is really nice,” McHale said. “Just get it and move it around. We had good passing patterns tonight and it really helped us out.

“It really kind of broke them down and made them work back and forth, which tired them out, I think. We were able to get the ball high and wide and put in crosses and get opportunities.”

The idea of getting back to the district championship game has been something that has fueled the Hawks ever since they lost last year’s final to Melbourne on penalty kicks.

But getting back to the title game is only part of the goal.

“We’ve still got a big game this week,” McHale said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

The Hawks will be looking for their first district championship since 2011.

To do it, they’ll have to beat a Melbourne team that has won every title since then, a streak of eight in a row.

The Hawks beat the Bulldogs in the regular season last year, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion in the district finals.

Now, they have another chance.

That’s why there wasn’t a huge celebration following Tuesday night’s win. There’s still work to be done.

“I wouldn’t say we’re extremely excited,” Robinson said. “We’re obviously happy, but I think in terms of overachieving or underachieving, we’re probably right where we need to be.

“We haven’t done anything extremely special yet. We’ve probably done what we expected ourselves to do at this point. When we set out at the beginning of the year, our goal was obviously to get back to the district championship.

“But rather than focus on that end product, we’ve focused game to game, which this year – with the new system and the new rankings – has helped us do, rather than just have the focal point be us winning the district championship, which it has been in the past.

“I’m confident the boys have done that. We’ve gotten better every game. We’ve problem solved more than we ever have. I think today was a good display. But can we get better? Yes.”