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Top-ranked Tampa Prep boys soccer exults, exhales after state title win

The Terrapins beat Miami Ransom Everglades in the Class 3A final to complete a perfect 21-0 season.
The Tampa Prep boys soccer team celebrates after its 2-0 victory over Miami Ransom Everglades in the Class 3A final Thursday at Spec Martin Stadium in DeLand. Tampa Prep finished the season 21-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation by Maxpreps.com.
The Tampa Prep boys soccer team celebrates after its 2-0 victory over Miami Ransom Everglades in the Class 3A final Thursday at Spec Martin Stadium in DeLand. Tampa Prep finished the season 21-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation by Maxpreps.com. [ COURTESY OF TAMPA PREP | Courtesy of Tampa Prep ]
Published Feb. 25|Updated Feb. 26

TAMPA — Minutes after the final horn sounded Thursday night at DeLand’s Spec Martin Stadium, Tampa Prep’s boys soccer team hoisted the Class 3A championship trophy and shouted with glee and a great sense of relief.

The pressure was finally off: Not only had the Terrapins completed their state title run, they had gone 21-0 and finished ranked No. 1 in the country by MaxPreps..

“A lot of pressure was released, that’s for sure,” said coach Doug Smith after a 2-0 victory over Miami Ransom Everglades in the final. “That pressure had been building since the beginning of the season.”

It started in late December, when Tampa Prep reached No. 1 in the country, and it increased with each victory.

“We kept telling the kids that rankings don’t mean anything,” Smith said. “I know it’s a cliche, but we kept telling them, one game at a time. That’s all you can focus on.”

It helped that the Terrapins didn’t make it past the district playoffs the previous three seasons. The losses simmered in their minds, particularly for the four senior leaders who had started as freshmen: defenders Tristan Ruiz de Somocurcio, Josh Starnes and Nico Coste Delvecchio, and forward Drew Hileman.

“After losing those three years in the districts, we were never, ever going to take anybody for granted,” said Ruiz de Somocurcio, who Smith described as “a monster” in the championship match. “I would say we played the whole year with chips on our shoulders. We always felt like we had something to prove.”

Along the way, they defeated tough rivals who had beaten them in the past: defending Class 3A champ Tampa Catholic (6-0 and 4-1), Jesuit (2-0), Calvary Christian (4-0), Mitchell (3-0), Lakeland Christian (1-0), Plant City (4-1) and Osceola (3-2 in penalty kicks).

The seniors seamlessly combined with younger talent, including top scorers such as sophomore Asher Jones (18 goals) and junior Santiago Castaneda (14), and strong contributors such as sophomore Danny Alvarez (8) and sophomore keeper J.B. Montague (63 saves, 11 goals allowed).

“I felt like if I did my job, then I was sure the rest of the team would do theirs,” Ruiz de Somocurcio said. “I had great confidence in all my teammates.”

Against Ransom Everglades, which entered the matchup 18-1-3 and ranked No. 3 in the country, Ruiz de Somocurcio said the Terrapins felt a slight sense of relief when Castaneda buried a penalty kick in the 19th minute — a goal scored after Jones was tackled on a breakaway inside the box.

When Jones scored on a breakaway in the 68th minute, Smith said, “we felt a lot better, but we still didn’t back down because we knew we were playing a great team, definitely the best team we played this season.”

Ultimately, the victory gave Tampa Prep its seventh state boys soccer title and first since winning back-to-back championships in 2012-13.

“It felt even extra good because it had been so long since we had won a title,” said Smith, in his 14th season coaching the Terrapins. “What a magical run it was. It was really amazing.”

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