WESLEY CHAPEL – There was no looking ahead or behind for the Wiregrass Ranch boys soccer team Friday night. Undefeated Jesuit Tigers was coming to the Ranch, and while the Bulls could have been thinking of how tired they were after playing Thursday or even the upcoming Christmas break, they were focused on just one thing: the Tigers.
That focus paid off in a 4-1 victory.
"When you know you're playing the No. 1-rated team in the area and we were going into the game seventh, it's a big game," said Wiregrass Ranch coach David Wilson. "It was whether you can get up for big games and whether you can finish in big games.
"They're so talented. They have athletes. They have speed. We happened to finish tonight. We put the ball in the back of the net and limited their opportunities to score. Defensively we did a really good job and Jake (Hill) did a good job in goal. The opportunities we had we scored."
Ryan Al Katib, Royce Luedde, Ben McQuay and Malcolm Lewis scored for the Bulls, who improved to 12-2-1. Hill had seven saves in net.
Jesuit (11-1) entered the game only allowing two goals the entire season, while averaging four. But the Tigers, who put up 14 shots, only netted one when Noah Kurtz headed a corner in the second half.
"I'd like to find an excuse – we had exams this week, we hadn't played in a while," Jesuit coach Eric Sims said. "But I think we came out flat. Hats off to them. They're a good side. I felt like they played a little bit harder than we did tonight. The first loss had to come sometime. I'd rather it happen now than at the end of the season."
No team could get much going in the first half as the defenses kept most of the action to the outside. In fact, Wiregrass Ranch had just a shot on goal in the first half and it was Katib who took a nice feed from Justin Amin and put the ball in the back of the net to break the scoreless tie with 26 minutes left in the opening period.
In the second half, the Bulls started off fast. First Luedde settled down a throw-in and ripped a shot into the net 12 minutes into the half, then 10 minutes later, McQuay finished a nice give-and-go from Ian Flores to make it 3-0 Wiregrass Ranch.
Kurtz helped Jesuit avoid the shutout at the 30-minute mark, heading in a corner from Diego Yepez to cut the lead to 3-1. But Lewis' header three minutes later was the dagger for the Tigers.
"We really have to come to play every day, especially when you're undefeated," Sims said. "We're going to get everyone's best and we weren't our best tonight."
Rick Brown, Times correspondent