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Semifinals again unkind to SPC

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Heartbreaking.

That single word, uttered almost inaudibly by St. Petersburg Catholic goalkeeper Davis Rodriguez, spoke volumes.

SPC lost for the second straight year in the semifinals Wednesday, falling 2-0 to Gulliver Prep.

"It's tough because these seniors won't ever play together again," senior midfielder Matt Skonicki said. "We just couldn't get it done today."

SPC, which started nine seniors and carried 11 on the roster, lost by the same score to Melbourne Central Catholic in last year's semis. Saying next season will be a rebuilding year is an understatement.

"We're losing the entire team, basically the entire team," coach Anatol Popovich said. "We'll have to start all over."

Gulliver Prep controlled the run of play most of the game with a possession-style attack. The Raiders created better chances, locked down the SPC forwards and took advantage of the Barons' mistakes.

"All you can say is that it wasn't God's will," Rodriguez said. "There's a reason for everything."

A major reason for SPC's loss was some sloppy and uncharacteristically poor play in the back. SPC (21-2-4) had several shaky clearances and seemed unsettled in the defensive third of the field.

"It was going to be a matter of who took advantage of the mistakes," Popovich said. "They did and we didn't."

Evan Kluge opened scoring in the 39th minute when he got behind Sean Bradley and headed a perfect Gabriel DaSilva feed past a helpless Rodriguez. But the most critical gaffe came 12 minutes into the second half.

SPC sweeper Sean Bryant attempted to play a ball back to Rodriguez but his pass fell well short and into open space. The Raiders' Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile got to the ball in a one-on-one with Rodriguez, took a pair of touches, feinted to his right and tapped in the goal past the sprawling SPC keeper.

Rodriguez said it was an uncharacteristic mistake by Bryant, the Barons' top defender.

"That's the first mistake (Bryant's) made all year, so you can't blame anything on him," he said.

But the two-goal lead sucked the life out of the already struggling Barons. Gulliver Prep outshot SPC 16-6.

"Against good teams like that, two goals is a big lead," Popovich said. "We didn't give up, but two goals is hard to overcome."

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