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Boys soccer: Hillsborough district preview

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Wed. January 15, 2014 | Kelly Parsons

Boys soccer: Hillsborough district preview

LUTZ — Christian Knight can count on two hands — the very hands that have helped make Steinbrenner’s goal nearly impenetrable — just how many balls he’s let by him this season.

But for a while, the goalkeeper admitted he couldn’t stop thinking about two goals from his past.

Knight can describe them in such vivid detail that you’d never guess they happened 11 months ago.

Gulf Coast scored its first goal against Knight after confusion surrounding a possible foul caused a defensive lapse and a Sharks breakaway.

The second was shot from 30 yards out and soared over the defenders’ heads and then his, Knight recalls. “I got a hand on it, but it was too late,” he said.

Falling 2-0 to the Sharks, Steinbrenner didn’t just lose a game that day. They lost a state title. And though he knew the ball made it past every other Warrior on the field before it got to him, Knight couldn’t help but blame himself.

“He feels like he should be able to save any ball that’s played his way. And he can’t. It’s impossible,” coach Chad Ebright said. “Every good goalie I’ve ever met has that same mentality: that every ball is theirs.”

Knight told Ebright on the bus ride home after the championship game that he couldn’t wait for the next season to start so he could get back to work. And so far, he’s upheld that promise.

He’s been a goalkeeper since he started playing soccer at age 12, but Knight knows he’s still got a long way to go at perfecting the position.

Knight said he’s working on kicks and fine tuning the ways in which he reads the game and anticipates what’s about to come his way, skills he learned over the years through training sessions with former Tampa Bay Rowdies goalkeeper Winston DuBose.

But there’s another aspect of the playing goalkeeper — a far less tangible talent — that Knight said he’s also focused on improving.

“You’ve just got to keep a short memory,” he said. “At the same time, you have to realize you have to get better. It’s a hard combination sometimes.”

Knight said he’s learning to move on after goals scored against him and losses. This season, however, there hasn’t been much of either.

Aside from a 2-1 loss to Newsome (12-5-1) and a 1-1 tie against Plant (7-2-6) in the same week in November, Steinbrenner (13-1-1) has cruised through its fifth season as a program. Knight has recorded nine shutouts in 15 games while grabbing 39 saves. He’s allowed just nine goals.

Much of that success comes from a strong senior defensive unit — made up of Joshua Rodriguez, Noah Keene, Brett Wilkosz and Zachary Yarish — that has been together for four years at Steinbrenner. Knight, Keene, Rodriguez and Wilkosz also play together at Tampa Bay United.

But having a guy like Knight in the goal gives wings to Warriors all over the field, midfielder Blake Wilson said.

“We definitely push forward a lot more,” said Wilson, who leads the team with 14 goals. “We go after the game more because we have confidence in our defense.”

As district tournaments — Steinbrenner sits atop the Class 5A, District 6 standings — and the playoffs approach, the possibility of the Warriors getting back to the state championship game is real. It’s a scenario Knight, who’s in the process of deciding where he wants to play college soccer, admits he’s thought a lot about.

It will certainly be a familiar experience should his Warriors compete for yet another state title. But not everything will be the same.

With thoughts of past goals scored against him now absent from his mind, Knight will be free to simply think about the task at hand.

“I’ve learned that when you think about the pressure, your body tenses up. You can’t play to what you want to do,” he said. “You just go out there and do it. You go out there and get it done. You analyze after.”

And maybe, if Knight is lucky, there won’t be any analyzing left to do.

District schedules
5A-7 at Alonso

Tuesday: No. 3 Plant vs. No. 5 Countryside, 5; No. 4 Palm Harbor University vs. No. 6 Alonso, 7
Jan. 22: No. 2 East Lake vs. Plant-Countryside winner, 5; No. 1 Steinbrenner vs. PHU-Alonso winner, 7
Jan. 24: Final, 7

5A-6 at Strawberry Crest
Tuesday: No. 2 Riverview vs. No. 7 Wharton, 3; No. 3 Durant vs. No. 6 Bloomingdale, 5; No. 4 George Jenkins vs. No. 5 Strawberry Crest, 7
Jan. 22: Durant-Bloomingdale winner vs. Riverview-Wharton winner, 5; No. 1 Newsome vs. Jenkins-Crest winner, 7
Jan. 24: Final, 7

4A-9 at Brandon
Tuesday: No. 8 Armwood vs. No. 9 Blake, 4; No. 4 Lennard vs. No. 5 Hillsborough, 6; No. 2 King vs. No. 7 East Bay, 8
Jan. 22: No. 3 Plant City vs. No. 6 Tampa Bay Tech, 6; Armwood-Blake winner vs. No. 1 Brandon, 8
Jan. 23: Semifinals, 6 and 8
Jan. 24: Final, 7

4A-8 at Leto
Monday: No. 5 Gaither vs. No. 4 Freedom, 7
Tuesday: No. 6 Chamberlain vs. No. 3 Sickles, 6; No. 7 Leto vs. No. 2 Wiregrass Ranch, 8
Jan. 22: No. 1 Mitchell vs. Gaither-Freedom winner, 6; Leto-Wiregrass winner vs. Chamberlain-Sickles winner, 8
Jan. 24: Final, 7

3A-9 at Jesuit
Tuesday: No. 2 Robinson vs. No. 7 Middleton, 4; No. 4 Spoto vs. No. 5 Jefferson, 6; No. 3 Southeast vs. No. 6 Bayshore, 8
Jan. 22: Robinson-Middleton winner vs. Southeast-Bayshore winner, 6; No. 1 Jesuit vs. Spoto-Jefferson winner, 8
Jan. 24: Final, 7

2A-9 at St. Petersburg Catholic
Tuesday: No. 4 Berkeley Prep vs. No. 5 Tampa Catholic, 7
Jan. 22: No. 2 Tampa Prep vs. No. 3 Clearwater Central Catholic, 5; Berkeley-TC winner vs. No. 1 SPC, 7
Jan. 24: Final, 7

A-5 at Bishop McLaughlin
Tuesday (various sites): No. 8 Tampa Bay HEAT at No. 1 Carrollwood Day, 4; No. 7 Brooks DeBartolo at No. 2 Bishop McLaughlin, 4:30; No. 6 Academy at the Lakes at No. 3 Cambridge Christian, 3:30; No. 5 Universal at No. 4 Seffner Christian, 4
Jan. 24: CDS-HEAT winner vs. Seffner-Universal winner, 5; AATL-Cambridge vs. Bishop-BD winner, 7
Jan. 25: Final, 2

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