TAMPA — Josh Berres' elastic reach and his ability to swallow penalty kicks was not an uncommon sight.
Mitchell's starting keeper earned the moniker "Spider Monkey" after another stellar performance in Monday's practice.
After Wednesday's 1-0 (3-1 penalty kicks) win against Pembroke Pines Charter to advance to tonight's Class 4A state final, the name just might stick.
Berres stopped a pair of penalty kicks and commanded his defensive zone throughout to finish with 14 saves for his first career win in penalty kicks — and Mitchell's first trip to the state final.
"Some keepers at this level don't have it; they wait to react to the ball," Mitchell coach Oscar Ubillus said. "He doesn't. He's quick enough to get to corners if need be and he saved us tonight."
Berres had a huge save on Pembroke Pines Charter's leading scorer Dwight Lodge in 95th minute, which helped preserve a chance at penalty kicks. Berres said he even had a plan for the scenario with the way he guessed each shot.
Pines Charter (15-8) shot first with Donny Felix scoring low to Berres' right as he dove in the opposite direction. And after Mitchell midfielder Jason Leslie had his shot stopped, Berres began to get a little anxious.
"It was the most nerve-racking game of my life," Berres said. "… You just have to keep your cool, do what you do best and play how you're supposed to play."
Berres said he read the next shot and knew where to go, making his first stop. Mitchell (25-2-3) tied it on a goal by Alex Wegener then watched Pines Charter midfielder Juan Polanco strike the crossbar to stay tied at 1.
Mitchell midfielder Max Rockwell fired into the upper-right corner for what would eventually be the winning goal and a 2-1 penalty kick advantage. Berres saved one more before David Vasquez iced it with the final goal.
"It's just kind of surreal," Wegener said of his shot. "We've been practicing them for this day. I knew where I was going and if I got a solid strike on it, it was going in. That's what happened."
Believe it or not, Berres could have been the backup goalie had it not been for a personnel move by Ubillus.
The decision to start Berres sounds odd considering he replaced Robbie Wallace, one of the North Suncoast's top goalies.
Ubillus, hoping to get the most from his team, realized he had a great defender in Wallace and a promising keeper in Berres. That was validated with Berres' nine shutouts and 107 saves for the year.
"And I knew I had Josh behind him (Wallace) to get the best 11 on the field," Ubillus said. "… As a coach, this was kind of an easy choice."
Izzy Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 421-3886.