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'Rebuilding' Crusaders play for state berth

Peter Roe has been there before. He just didn't expect to be there again this year. The Tampa Catholic boys soccer coach led his team to the state finals last year, where it eventually lost to Class 2A state champion Clearwater Central Catholic 4-1 in the finals.

But after losing leading scorers David Murdock and Ace Gorrone, Roe knew that it would be a challenge for this year's team to make into the Class 2A, Section II championship game.

The Crusaders did make it, however, and will be host to Melbourne's Florida Air Academy today at 4 p.m. Tampa Catholic defeated Lakeland Santa Fe 2-1 in the Region IV game on Tuesday, while Florida Air upended Bishop Moore 1-0.

"Last year we had three or four outstanding players and I lost all of them to graduation," said Roe, who is now in his second year as coach of Tampa Catholic. "I thought this would be a rebuilding year but the kids that I have really put it together.

"We set a goal just to get through districts this year. So making it to the sectional is a big bonus. We've done very well to get this far."

The sectional game will feature two very different teams.

While the Crusaders are experienced in sectional play, this will mark the first time that Florida Air has advanced past its district since Frank Cassar took over the reigns of the program nine years ago.

And while Roe has looked to several players for goals this year, Cassar depends on two big scorers and an excellent defense to win.

Leading Florida Air into today's game will be juniors Jose Zarraga and Isiah Navarro. Zarraga, one of the slowest and smallest players on the team, makes his presence know with a big shot. He's scored 47 goals on the year, while Zarraga has added 31.

FIA goalkeeper Jose Urena has strung together three consecutive shutouts en route to the sectional game and has compiled 11 on the year.