Region boys soccer: Merritt Island 2, Jesuit 1 (7-6 PKs)
TAMPA — After 80 minutes of hard-fought soccer, followed by two 10-minute nail-biting overtimes, involving numerous great saves and near misses by both Jesuit and Merritt Island — the real drama started in Tuesday night’s Class 3A regional final with the score tied 1-1.
Jesuit went first and buried its first two attempts.
Then Jesuit keeper Tim Gyenis — who made several spectacular saves during regular play — stepped in goal. Gyenis dived right and knocked away the attempt.
“Right then I thought, That’s it; we have this,'” Gyenis said. “I thought we were golden.”
They were not.
After five rounds of penalty kicks the score was tied with three makes apiece.
On they went.
After three straight conversions by both sides, Jesuit and Merritt Island missed on the ninth attempts.
Finally in the 10th round of PKs, Jesuit missed and Merritt Island converted, even though Gyenis got fingers on the last shot, which flew safely into the net.
“I guessed low and left, but the shot went left and high,” Gyenis said. “I almost had it … almost.”
It was a tough ending (7-6 in PKs) to a great season for the Tigers, who after reaching last year’s state semifinals lost six starters to graduation or other factors.
This year, despite starting up to six freshmen and sophomores for some games, Jesuit finished its 21-7-1 and steadily improved as time went on.
“In one season it was amazing how much these guys grew,” Jesuit coach Eric Sims said. “This is disappointing to lose but this group has a lot it can build on. They’re a good group.”
In the early going Tuesday, it looked like Jesuit might pull off the victory, especially in the eighth minute when Royce Pope sent a pin-point cross from the corner to Noah Kurtz, who sent a clean bullet into the net.
From there, Merritt Island (21-1) ramped up with relentless pressure and shots on goal, all of which were saved by Gyenis until the 63rd minute when the Mustangs’ chipped a header over a leaping Gyenis.
“I almost had that one as well,” Gyenis said. “But it was just out of reach.”
Overall, Gyenis said he got what he expected from the regional final, played the last three years against Merritt Island.
“I knew it was going to be intense because it always is against Merritt Island,” Gyenis said. “We always look forward to playing them. It’s just too bad it had to end this way for us.”