TAMPA — Steinbrenner kept its hot streak going, jumping out to a three-goal lead in the first 20 minutes of the Berkeley Invitational soccer tournament final, holding off a talented Palmetto team for a 5-2 victory.
“I think that was the best team we played all year,” Steinbrenner coach Chad Ebright said. “I think we were fortunate in the first 20 minutes — three shots, three goals — that’s pretty fortunate.”
The game got rolling in a hurry for the Warriors (12-1-1) in the 10th minute when Michael Connell cleaned up in the box for the first goal of the match. The Warriors extended the lead in the 17th, as 6-foot-4 defender Noah Keene sent a 60-yard free kick on frame and Palmetto’s goalkeeper came out to punch the ball away, only to have it curve backward and into the goal.
Steinbrenner padded its lead a few minutes later when Blake Wilson fired in a shot from just inside the 18-yard box.
Palmetto (13-2) was not put away yet, using its speed to challenge, but chances were turned away on three solid saves from Christian Knight. The Warriors’ lead was cut in the 35th minute on a penalty call that Palmetto’s Ben Espinal converted.
The rally was short-lived, as Steinbrenner got goals from Connell and Wilson in the second half, and a defense led by seniors Noah Keene, Josh Rodriguez, Brett Wilcosz and Zach Yarish was impressive.
“They were tough, and we just tried to keep it really compact and sacrifice a little on the outside,” Wilcosz said. “But we didn’t want to give up anything in the middle.”
Yarish also had an assist and was a force all over the field.
“Zach Yarish is the unsung hero of this team,” Ebright said. “He is solid, he is consistent, you never have to tell him where to be, Zach is just always in the right spot for us.”
Palmetto added a late goal from Raul Loera, but it all but conceded the game in the final 20 minutes, making a hockey line-style change by swapping out six players.
Newsome’s Ware earns 200th coaching win
It might not have been the way he had envisioned it, but when Thursday’s 4-1 victory against Wharton got Newsome boys coach Allen Ware to the 200-win plateau, it was still something he appreciated — even if he shunned the fanfare.
“It just means I’m old,” Ware said in a text message about the impending total this week.
The total is a benchmark for the longtime coach, now in his second season leading Newsome (9-4-1), but he hoped it would come against a team other than Wharton, which is coached by Ware’s brother, Scott.
“We’ve always supported each other, and the first thing he said to me after the match was, ‘congrats on your 200th,’ ” Ware said of his brother. “We’re always together, and he was really cordial.”
Ware played high-school soccer at Armwood and began his coaching career with Plant City for two seasons before spending 15 years at Brandon. He posted a 23-1-2 season in 2003 with the Eagles and won a state title that season.
“I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of quality players, a lot of good guys through all of the programs,” Ware said. “I’ve been coaching for a long time, and having good players has been the biggest thing behind these wins.”