TAMPA — First-year Jesuit coach Eric Sims entered the Class 3A, District 9 tournament with several unanswered questions about his team.
“We’ve been up and down all year,” Sims said. “We’ve had really, really good performances and some not-good performances.”
Wednesday night was one of the really good ones.
His Tigers scored five goals in the first 15 minutes to kick-start an 8-0 mercy-rule victory at home over Spoto. Jesuit (12-4-3) advances to Friday’s final against Bradenton Southeast (11-7-2), which eliminated Robinson 1-0.
Jesuit’s ninth consecutive playoff appearance was never in doubt. Jacob Starnes rocketed a shot past Spoto in the second minute as the Tigers racked up 15 shots on goal before the first water break.
“How fast they started shows these guys are pretty hungry,” Sims said. “Hopefully we’re peaking at the right time.”
Stephen Huetz had a hat trick for Jesuit, and Jacob Vila added two goals. Paul Anderson and Alejandro Cartaya scored a goal apiece, and Edwin Nieves had 16 saves for Spoto.
In the other semifinal, Robinson (6-10-1) struggled early but kept the Seminoles scoreless at halftime. Southeast broke through in the 68th minute, when Arlen Rivas knocked in a Benjamin Hoyle free kick.
The Knights had two late chances on Ryan Tahiri free kicks, but Southeast headed the first one out of the box, and the second sailed harmlessly past the net.
Omar Shoubaki had eight saves in the loss for Robinson.