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State boys soccer preview

Freedom’s Deion Jones (8) leads his team with 44 points, and he is hard to stop on free kicks. His play will be crucial to the Patriots, who are making their first appearance in the final four.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times (2007)

Freedom’s Deion Jones (8) leads his team with 44 points, and he is hard to stop on free kicks. His play will be crucial to the Patriots, who are making their first appearance in the final four.

A look at two of Friday's semifinals, which feature Tampa teams.

Class 5A, Niceville vs. Freedom

Niceville (24-1-3)

Road to Tampa: 6-0 win over Tallahassee Leon in region quarterfinals, 1-1 (4-3 penalty kicks) over Tallahassee Lincoln in semis, 1-0 win over Fleming Island in the final

Postseason pedigree: The Eagles won their fifth consecutive district title and have advanced to the playoffs 13 of the past 14 years. Niceville has not advanced out of the final four, losing in its two prior appearances. In 1983, the Eagles lost 5-0 to Clearwater Central Catholic, then in '07 lost 6-1 to Palm Harbor University.

Need to know: Niceville takes pride in its defense, which has allowed just one goal in the postseason. Eagles coach Wes Nelson, a Niceville alumnus, said after losing 14 players last year the defense took some time to jell though it had not allowed more than two goals in any game.

"They're solid," Nelson said. "They're one of the best defenses I've coached."

Did you know? The Eagles' lone loss came to Lake Mary, 2-1 on Dec. 22.

Key players

Pedro Alba, Jr., F: Scored the winning goal in the region final.

Reed White, Sr., MF: Voted by his teammates last year as the most valuable player.

Jake Pratt, Sr., D: Two-year starter and member of last final four team.

Ryan Riggs, Sr., K: Two-year starter and member of last final four team.

Freedom (16-2-5)

Road to Tampa: 3-2 (two overtimes) win over River Ridge in region quarters, 6-2 win over Land O'Lakes in semis, 6-1 win over Lake Howell in final

Postseason pedigree: The Patriots are making their first final four appearance after advancing to the playoffs for the sixth year in a row.

Need to know: The Patriots' offense has looked unstoppable in the past two games, totaling 12 goals. Taylor Nalls and Manny Martes had back-to-back hat tricks in wins over Land O'Lakes and Lake Howell. Deion Jones has proved a great passer with pinpoint accuracy on free kicks. And keeper Kyle Peel has been tough to beat, stopping a pair of point-blank shots against Lake Howell.

Did you know? This is the first Freedom athletic program to advance to the final four.

Key players

Deion Jones, Sr., F/MF: Excellent at free kicks with a team-leading 44 points.

Taylor Nalls, F/MF: Notched a hat trick against Land O'Lakes.

Alex Landeta, Jr., D: Had two goals and an assist in win over Lake Howell.

Kyle Peel, Sr., K: Posted a 1.05 GAA and six shutouts.

Class 3A: Berkeley Prep vs. Pine Crest

Berkeley Prep (26-2-2)

Road to Tampa: 9-1 win over Sarasota Cardinal Mooney in region quarters, 6-0 over Bishop Verot in semis, 5-1 over St. Andrew's in final

Postseason pedigree: This marks the seventh time in 14 playoff appearances the Buccaneers have advanced to the final four. Berkeley Prep has won four state titles, including its last one in 2004 under longtime coach Dave Zimmerman.

Need to know: Outscoring opponents has become a common theme in the postseason. In three playoff games, the Bucs outscored opponents 20-2.

Did you know? The Bucs have scored 122 goals and are averaging 4.06 per game.

Key players

T.J. Roehn, Jr., F: Leads the Bucs with 71 points.

J.D. Post, Sr., MF: Has a five-game scoring streak with a combined seven goals.

Alex Jenkins, Sr., K: Has posted a 0.70 GAA including seven shutouts.

Pine Crest (20-4-3)

Road to Tampa: 1-0 win over Fort Lauderdale University in region quarters, 0-0 (4-2 PK) win over North Broward Prep in semis, 1-0 overtime win vs. Gulliver Prep in final

Postseason pedigree: The Panthers advanced to their first final four, advancing out of the region quarterfinal for the first time since 2003. Pine Crest won 12 of its past 13 matches. The Panthers have not allowed a goal in the postseason.

Need to know: The Panthers pride themselves on defense and being quick studies. "It's people willing to learn and willing to be coached," coach Miguel Martin said.

Did you know? The Panthers lost midfielder Zach Wolfson in the first game of the season to a leg injury. He began playing again in January, but Martin said he is playing at roughly 60 percent of his capability.

Key players

Kyle Burgs, Jr., F: Leading scorer with 15 goals and four assists.

Geo Freitas, Fr., F: 12 goals and five assists.

Matt O'Connor, Jr., MF: He has eight goals and four assists.

Alec Neita, Fr., D: Commanding sweeper with seven goals.

Wyatt Zeller, Jr., K: Has 10 shutouts with a 1.0 GAA.

Izzy Gould, Times staff writer

FAST FACTS

State boys soccer tournament

All games at Pepin Stadium, University of Tampa. Admission is $8 per session.

Wednesday's

semifinals

Class 6A: Boca Raton 2, Miami Varela 0; Melbourne 1, Longwood Lyman 1 (Melbourne wins 4-3 on penalty kicks)

Class 2A: Tallahassee McClay 1, Orangewood Christian 0; Delray Beach American Heritage 2, Bradenton St. Stephen's 1

today's Games

Class 2A: final, 5

Class 6A: final, 7:30

Class 4A: Stanton vs. Nease, noon; Palmetto vs. Merritt Island, 2:15

On the Web

With three local teams — Berkeley Prep, Palm Harbor University and Freedom — playing on Friday, we'll blog the games live at blogs.tampabay.com/preps/

State boys soccer preview 02/18/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 11:11pm]
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