Playing for Jesuit High's soccer team since his freshman season, junior forward Eric Mubang isn't exactly an unknown for the Tigers' explosive offense. However, coach Bob Bauman said the big, powerful Mubang was a bit overshadowed while playing behind former stars and All-Americans Tyler Hartlage and Brett Durrance.
"He's been a forward for us since he was a freshman, but he has been a little bit in the shadow of our prior All-Americans," Bauman said. "And he had a little bit of a slow start this year, but he's really getting it going now."
"I think he was understanding of his role for the first two years, but I think he knows this is the year for him to have a breakout season."
Mubang, who was the Tigers' second leading scorer behind Tampa Tribune All-Hillsborough County First Team player Durrance, had 10 goals and four assists for the Class 5A state semifinalists last season. This season, Mubang is off to a hot start, pacing the Tigers offense with 12 goals. He has led Jesuit (11-1-1) with five game-winning goals and recorded hat tricks in the team's last two wins against Jefferson and Robinson.
"He's a bull," Bauman said of his 5-foot-10, 210-pound forward. "He's thick and strong, holds the ball really well with great speed and now he's starting to get more and more consistent with his finishing."
Mubang notched game-winners in the finals of both the Wharton Invitational and the NIKE Tournament. The team's only loss thus far was 3-0 against independent Montverde Academy (13-0-1). Jesuit's challenging run continues this weekend as it hosts Miami Gulliver Prep and Ransom Everglades.
Steinbrenner hitting its stride
After the first three seasons of its existence included three straight district crowns, an undefeated regular season and a 2011 Class 4A state title, the Steinbrenner girls lost four of their first seven matches this season.
The early season record is a little deceptive, however, as the four losses came to local powerhouses Plant, Wharton and Newsome (against whom the Warriors have a win-loss split this season), and currently undefeated Wiregrass Ranch
For first-year coach Angela Gillisse, the last two games, both 4-0 victories against Robinson and Gaither, have seen the Warriors finally playing as a cohesive team.
The Warriors have been bolstered by the return of midfielder and captain Miranda Gonzalez, who missed the early part of the season with a hamstring injury. Gonzalez, a first team All-Hillsborough County defender a season ago, returned to the lineup in Tuesday's victory against Gaither.
Gonzalez makes everything run a lot smoother and allows the Warriors' biggest weapon, forward captain Alexis Bredeau, to focus on offense and not worry about falling back to aid in Steinbrenner's defense.
"I think our poor start to the season had a lot to do with being down a few starters for the first half of the season," Gillisse said. "(Tuesday) everything seemed to turn around and with Miranda back in the lineup, everything connects now."
Bredeau, who leads the team with 13 goals and 10 assists, has added a pair of goals in each of Steinbrenner's last two wins. Gillisse said with Gonzalez anchoring the defensive midfield, the attacking midfield led by the Warriors other captains, Danielle Eule and Marley Opila, have started to excel in their roles.
"I know it sounds crazy to say it's just the return of one player, but having Miranda on the field gives the rest of our offense a lot of confidence," Gillisse said. "We've played well without her, but for Alexis she felt like she had to recover back and when Miranda is on the field she doesn't feel like she has to work all over the field."
The Warriors are also getting a lift from freshman forward Jessica Taylor, who has seven goals and nine assists.