Tigers play ‘perfect game’ in regional quarterfinals

Mariani scores twice as Holy Trinity beats St. Andrew’s 3-1


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Holy Trinity goalkeeper James Linnabary (in yellow) comes up with a big save during Wednesday night's Class 3A regional quarterfinal against St. Andrews. The Tigers won the game 3-1.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

The Holy Trinity boys soccer team put on quite an impressive performance Wednesday night.

Jackson Mariani scored twice, Eddie Marr put in a header off the post and the Tigers defense held up against an strong offensive attack as the Tigers defeated visiting St. Andrew’s 3-1 in the Class 3A regional quarterfinals.

“This was a perfect game by my standpoint,” Holy Trinity coach Adrian Moreno said. “I told the boys every game is do-or-die, you’ve got to be perfect. You can’t have that, ‘we’ll get ‘em next time (mentality).’ You have to be perfect every game.

“They came out perfect (tonight).”

The third-seeded Tigers (10-4-4) earned themselves a spot in the regional semifinals, which is set to take place Saturday at 7 p.m. on the road against No. 2 American Heritage-Delray Beach (13-2-1).

Holy Trinity won’t be favored in that game, but that’s nothing new for the Tigers.

After all, being the underdog has kind of been their thing this season. Why should the regional playoffs be any different?

“We worked pretty hard to get here,” senior co-captain Ryan Mozer said. “We’ve been the underdog all season, especially with losing eight starters (from) last year and having half the JV team come up.

“We’ve been the underdog all season. We’ve proven a lot of teams wrong.”

That was the case again Wednesday night, even though the Tigers were seeded higher than No. 6 St. Andrews from Boca Raton (8-7-2).

Unable to get a pregame scouting report on the Scots, the Tigers came out with the mindset that they were just going to play their game and make any necessary adjustments in the early going

One thing that wasn’t going to change, however, was the determination Holy Trinity players showed. It was their first game since winning the District 10 tournament, and they were determined their season would continue.

“Tonight, was just a glory night,” Marr, a senior co-captain, said. “Everyone was saying, ‘well, what are they going to do when it comes to a big game like this, against a quality team.’ We proved them wrong.

“We have a lot of belief.”

The Tigers got on top early as Mozer fed a perfect pass into the box that left Mariani one-on-one with the keeper. The senior delivered and Holy Trinity had a 1-0 lead.

It remained a one-goal game until there were 15 minutes left in regulation, when Mariani – in just his seventh game at striker – scored again.

“I’ve really settled into the position,” Mariani said. “I’m feeling comfortable now. My teammates are playing great. All of my goals have been team efforts. None of my goals have been solo.

“My two goals (tonight), I was lucky to receive great service, and I just focused on what we’ve been practicing all season. I finished the ball. I’m happy to get my two goals tonight.”

After not scoring in his first three games at striker, Mariani now has seven goals in his last four, making the decision to move him from center back to playing up top look like a smart one.

“We just thought we needed some size up top (Mariani is listed at 6-foot-3) … so we figured let’s put him up there and see,” Moreno said of the decision. “We had a lot of defenders, so I said we can use him up there and see what happens.

“We were either going to be geniuses, or we were going to be the biggest idiots in the world. It’s worked out.”

After Mariani’s second goal put Holy Trinity up 2-0, St. Andrews was able to break through and score less than a minute later to cut the lead in half.

But back came Holy Trinity as Mozer delivered a long free kick into the box and Marr was there to put it home.

“Ryan floated it to me … I just went for it,” Marr said. “I thought it was going to hit out and I was going to have to tuck it in, but I got a little bit of luck and it went in the goal.”

That gave the Tigers all they would need as goalkeeper James Linnabary and the defense were able to thwart the Scots’ offense the rest of the way.

And so, the Tigers season will continue … underdogs or not.

“I keep telling the boys, ‘hey, we’ve got nothing to lose. We weren’t expected to be anywhere near this game. Let’s just go out and play,’” Moreno said.

“We’re playing with house money. We go out and we keep turning heads.”