ST. PETERSBURG — In the four-year high school soccer career of St. Petersburg midfielder Ryan Rivera, the senior never once ripped a shot into the back of the net.
Rivera's value to the Green Devils comes more from his ability to set up goals.
But in a pivotal district matchup Wednesday with Countryside, Rivera found himself on the receiving end of an opportunistic throw-in into the box from Clay Payne. Rivera calmly headed the long throw deep in Countryside territory past Cougars goalkeeper Hunter Maricle to score what would prove to be the only goal St. Petersburg would need in a 2-0 victory over the Cougars (6-4-4).
"It took me long enough (to score)," Rivera said with a laugh. "It was a big one. Clay made eye contact with me, and he saw I was pretty open."
Rivera's first career goal was especially important for St. Petersburg (6-3-1). It gave the Green Devils the inside track for the top seed in the Class 6A, District 7 tournament.
It also snapped a two-game losing streak for a St. Petersburg squad hampered by injuries. Starters Warren Simmons and Matt Schafer were out of the lineup (Schafer is lost for the year with a torn meniscus). Two others, Robert Menke and Casey Killian, weren't 100 percent.
"This win was huge for us because we were playing incredibly well at the beginning of the season and we've been hit with awful injuries," St. Petersburg first-year coach Rui Farias said. "They knew they had to win this game, so they worked really hard tonight."
St. Petersburg 1, Countryside 0: Life can get pretty boring sometimes for a goalkeeper.
Wednesday was one of those nights for St. Petersburg goalie Dayna Adams. The senior netminder was tested only once in the Green Devils' victory over Countryside. Anytime the Cougars (5-4-1) threatened, a host of St. Petersburg defenders would converge on the ball.
"That's what I want. I hate having to do work," Adams jokingly said. "I guess it's good to be bored because then that means the defenders are doing their job."
The game's lone goal came with 28 minutes left in the first half. St. Petersburg (7-3-1) was awarded a penalty shot when Mel Kepto was tripped in the box, and Adriana Rodrigues converted.