It did not take long for Kyle Curinga to make an impression on Clearwater Central Catholic’s soccer team.
“He did a monster slide tackle on the third day of tryouts his freshman year,’’ CCC coach Jim Harte said. “He made the team right then and there.’’
Since then, Curinga has been a rock on an otherwise unsteady team. Prior to Curinga’s arrival four years ago, the Marauders were regulars in the state championship game. But since his freshman year, CCC has not returned to the final four.
Curinga and his teammates are hoping to change that when the Class 2A, District 9 tournament begins this week.
“We’re thinking states,’’ Curinga said. “It’s been rebuilding since I got here. I think I’ve played a big part in getting us back to where we’re supposed to be.’’
With postseason play set to begin, CCC may be the most dangerous 11-9-1 team in the area. The Marauders spent most of the season battling injuries and tough opponents. They finished behind Berkeley Prep in the district standings.
But senior forward Jared Brown is back from injury. And with a strong supporting cast and Curinga’s knack for scoring, opponents can take the Marauders lightly at their own risk.
“There is no doubt in my mind that (Curinga) is the best player out there,’’ Harte said. “I told him that all of the recognition is irrelevant if we don’t perform this postseason. He is really focused and driving our team. He’s leading them and making everyone better.’’
Curinga grew up in Dunedin and began playing club soccer when he was 7. He got a real taste of international soccer when he was in eighth grade and took a trip to Italy with the Clearwater Chargers club program.
“When I first went to play overseas I knew it was something that I wanted to do everyday,’’ Curinga said.
And he’s been playing just about every day since.
“I don’t have much of a social life, to be honest,’’ he said.
Now a member of the Strictly Soccer club in St. Petersburg, Curinga is busy year round. His goal now is winning a championship for CCC.
In the regular season, Curinga scored 28 goals and added 28 assists. As a senior captain, he knows that’s his job. When he gets the ball, he tries to make something happen. And he usually has to do it against two- or three-man coverage.
“Every time I touch the ball I’m thinking about scoring a goal,’’ Curinga said. “Or at least dishing the ball off for someone else to score. That’s just my instinct.’’
Colleges have taken notice of Curinga. He has interest from Marshall, Tulsa, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Wake Forest and Stetson. And there were clubs overseas willing to give him a tryout, but he said for now he wants to play college soccer.
The Marauders open district play Wednesday night against No. 3 seed St. Petersburg Catholic. If Curinga continues his hot streak (he has scored eight goals in the past two games), and Brown keeps scoring (11 goals and six assists in limited play), the Marauders could finally get back to state.
Harte has coached at CCC since 1987. He doesn’t know if this team is state championship quality, but he’s sure about Curinga.
“Best I’ve coached,’’ he said.
District soccer schedules
Class 5A-8 at various sites
Tuesday: No. 5 St. Petersburg at No. 4 North Port, 7; No. 6 Countryside at No. 3 Sarasota Riverview, 7; No. 7 Pinellas Park at No. 2 East Lake, 7
Wednesday: North Port/St. Petersburg winner at No. 1 Palm Harbor University, 7; Countryside/Riverview winner vs. Pinellas Park/East Lake winner, 7 (higher seed hosts)
Friday: Final, 7 (in Sarasota County unless two Pinellas teams make final)
Class 4A-10 at Seminole
Monday: No. 4 Tarpon Springs vs. No. 5 Dixie Hollins, 6; No. 3 Northeast vs. No. 6 Largo, 8
Wednesday: No. 2 Clearwater vs. Northeast/Largo winner, 6; No. 1 Seminole vs. Tarpon/Dixie Hollins winner, 8
Friday: Final, 7
Class 3A-10 at various sites
Tuesday: No. 8 Boca Ciega at No. 1 Osceola, 7; No. 5 Lakewood at No. 4 at Dunedin, 7; No. 7 Gibbs at No. 2 Palmetto, 7; No. 6 Bradenton Bayshore at No. 3 Bradenton Southeast, 7
Wednesday: Osceola/Bogie winner vs. Dunedin/Lakewood winner, 7; Palmetto/Gibbs winner vs. Southeast/Bayshore winner, 7 (higher seed hosts)
Friday: Final, 7 (in Manatee County unless two Pinellas teams make final)
Class 2A-9 at Clearwater Central Catholic
Wednesday: No. 4 Tampa Catholic vs. No. 1 Berkeley Prep, 5; No. 3 St. Petersburg Catholic vs. No. 2 Clearwater Central Catholic, 7
Friday: Final, 7
Class A-8 at Various sites
Monday: No. 7 Bradenton Christian vs. No. 9 Canterbury, 5 at Out-of-Door; No. 5 Admiral Farragut at No. 4 Northside Christian, 5
Tuesday: No. 1 St. Stephen’s vs. Bradenton Christian/Canterbury winner, 3 at Out-of-Door; No. 7 Keswick Christian at No. 2 Shorecrest, 5; No. 6 Sarasota Christian at No. 3 ODA, 5
Wednesday at Out-of-Door: St. Stephen’s/TBD winner vs. Northside/Farragut winner, 5; Shorecrest/Keswick winner vs. ODA/Sarasota Christian winner, 7
Friday at Out-of-Door: Final, 7
Class A-7 at various sites
Monday: No. 9 Citrus Park Christian at No. 8 Academy at the Lakes
Tuesday: Citrus Park/AATL winner at No. 1 Tampa Prep, 7; No. 5 Seffner Christian at No. 4 Bishop McLaughlin, 7; No. 6 Calvary Christian at No. 3 Cambridge, 7; No. 7 Carrollwood Day at No. 2 Indian Rocks Christian, 7
Wednesday at Indian Rocks: Cambridge/Calvary winner vs. CDS/IRC winner, 5; Tampa Prep/TBD winner vs. Seffner/Bishop winner, 7
Friday at Indian Rocks: Final, 7