TAMPA - After advancing to the Class 4A, District 6 tournament final for six successive years and winning three consecutive district titles, Gaither boys soccer coach Fran Reidy might be expected to find reaching the regionals a bit mundane. But Reidy is not taking this regional appearance for granted. The team lost three starters from last year's state runner-up.
"Last year I could have sat in a lawn chair during practice and that team would have won," Reidy said, "but this team showed up every day for practice ready to work. We gave them the proper things to work on, and they put in the work. For me, this is by far the most satisfying year."
Gaither (15-5-3) plays host to Bloomingdale (17-2) in the Class 4A, Region V match tonight at 7. The winner will advance to the 4A-Section II game Friday.
Bloomingdale lost to the Cowboys 1-0 during the regular season, but Reidy says this match will be much different.
"The game should be a lot less physical than last time," Reidy said. "Last game, we had a referee that really didn't control the game very well, and it became very physical. I think that both teams like to play soccer, and I imagine that (tonight) will be a much better game than last time."
Bloomingdale was able to scout the Gaither team when the Cowboys played Leto in a semifinal district game. Reidy said the home field should help his team neutralize the Bulls' scouting advantage.
"Playing at home will be a tremendous help," Reidy said. "I wouldn't want to have to beat Bloomingdale on its home field a second time."
Two other Hillsborough County schools are ready to take the next step down the road to the state final four: Tampa Catholic and Jesuit.
Tampa Catholic (12-7-3), runner-up to Clearwater Central Catholic in the Class 2A state tournament last year, plays host to Lakeland-Santa Fe (6-6-2) today at 4 p.m. in the 2A-Region IV match.
The Crusaders advanced into regional play with a 4-1 upset of No.1-seeded Berkeley Prep in the 2A-8 final Friday at Berkeley.
Lakeland-Santa Fe defeated Fort Meade 4-0 in the 2A-7 championship game.
Jesuit travels to St. Petersburg High School for the 3A-Region V game. Jesuit (14-6-3) defeated Lakeland Kathleen 1-0 at Auburndale Friday night for the 3A-9 title.