DORAL – They accomplished so much this season.
And one day, that will hit them and they can smile and be proud.
But Friday night … was not that time.
The Viera Hawks came into their Class 6A boys soccer state final four matchup with Doral Academy full of hope and conviction that they would get a chance to play for the state championship.
Instead, a number of players found themselves lying on the turf at Firebird Stadium after a 3-0 loss, trying to process that the season they’ve enjoyed so much was over.
“We didn’t execute the game plan,” Viera coach Nick Robinson said. “The effort, the commitment and the desire was all there. We just weren’t able to translate that into executing into the areas that wanted to.
“Fair play to them. They came out and they made it as difficult as they could for us. We can sit here and make excuses, but the reality is we were outplayed, didn’t find solutions and, unfortunately, you get punished when you don’t do those things.”
The Hawks (18-2-2), who were held scoreless for only the third time in 22 games this season, could never seem to get into any kind of rhythm offensively as Doral Academy (10-1-3) dominated much of the possession time.
“We just struggled to get the guys we wanted on the ball involved,” Robinson said. “We couldn’t get a rhythm. We couldn’t get anything going today. Like I said, they came out and executed their game plan and we just struggled to even string three or four passes together, never mind executing the game plan. It’s a frustrating way for this group to end.”
Doral Academy had as many yellow cards as it did goals, but the key penalty of the night came with 16:52 in the game when a Viera defender was called for a penalty in the box. That gave the Firebirds a penalty kick, which they converted for a 1-0 lead.
It stayed that way until seven minutes into the second half when a Viera defender slipped while trying to challenge a Doral Academy player and the Firebird took advantage to score to make it 2-0. The third goal came shortly after.
“I don’t think we panicked (after the first goal). We just weren’t able to get the ball in the right areas,” Robinson said. “This is a tough field to play on. It’s so narrow. There’s not a lot of time and space. You have to adjust quickly and we didn’t adjust quick enough in this game.
“To go down 1-0 at halftime, I still thought we had a good chance. At this stage, you make mistakes, you get punished. That’s what happened today.
“We still created chances. We had two or three really good chances in front of the goal, but you don’t take them and you make mistakes on the defensive end and, you get punished.”
It was the final game for Viera seniors John Anasa; Nyles Lockridge; Lucas Patikas; Jack Koegel; Aidan Barnett; Andrew Sanger; Caleb Martin; Reese Bloeman; Zachary Nielsen; Austin Conway; Sean Ladd and Matt Cominsky.
And what a legacy they’ll leave behind.
This year’s team set a program record for wins (18) after getting 17 the year before. And for the second straight season, the Hawks won every game played on their home field.
That includes their win over Melbourne in the district final. It was only the second district championship in school history, snapping Melbourne’s nine-year run in the process.
Viera came into the state regional playoffs with an all-time record of 1-7 record – and that win came in 2011.
Winning the program’s first regional championship at home against Plant City and reaching the state final four was all part of a magical run that sets the bar high for future Viera teams to follow.
With a number of key underclassmen coming back, such as Conner Floyd; Evan Kirrane; Max May; Alvey Kaufman; Austin Kehoe; Max Walker; Gabe Shelton; Yorgen Torres; Hunter Sabiston and Bora Turkmen coming back, the Hawks should be district title contenders again next season.
It may not have ended the way they all wanted it too, but this season was quite a ride for a group of Hawks who not only said all season that their mentality was different and better than it’s ever been … but went out and proved it.
“This group of boys has a lot to be proud of and their achievements this year will go down in history as the best Viera boys varsity soccer team ever,” Robinson said. “District champions and region champions on our home field is something this group will remember and cherish for the rest of their lives.”