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Boys soccer: Connell lifts Steinbrenner

TAMPA — Steinbrenner’s Michael Connell has made himself a big part of the Warriors’ success this season. The sophomore has provided some set-piece wizardry, and he showed that again Friday in Steinbrenner’s opening-round 4-0 victory against Newsome in the Berkeley Invitational soccer tournament.

Newsome (9-4-1) played

well in the first half despite missing six starters, but the Steinbrenner (10-1-1) offense proved to be too much in the final 25 minutes. Connell got things started, settling a ball on the outside of the 18-yard box, sending in a cross and finding David McGee for the finish in the 57th minute.

“I think the boys that were out there for Newsome played incredible, played hard the whole way, and in a tournament, that’s what you want,” Warriors coach Chad Ebright said. “They were down six starters, so that shows how deep they are and how well they are coached.”

Connell sent in a corner kick a few minutes later that found senior defender Josh Rodriguez, and he flicked a header into the back of the net. The sophomore wasn’t finished, as Connell bent a left-footed corner kick off the far post for the Warriors’ third goal. Connell has a team-leading 10 assists and has three goals this season.

Austin Labban took a pass from Blake Wilson, dribbled through defenders and sent home the Warriors’ final goal of the match.

The win was a little bit of vindication for the Warriors, as Newsome handed Steinbrenner its only loss of the year Nov. 12.

“We lost it in our first meeting, so I think there was some motivation to get back on our only loss,” Connell said. “I think we started to play our best game in the (second half) and broke it open.”

Host Berkeley Prep topped Hillsborough 2-1 (5-4 in penalty kicks) when Buccaneers keeper Ben Milliken punched a shot over the cross bar in the penalty kick round. Hillsborough’s Blake Rehl scored in the first half and Berkeley’s Jeff Guttentag scored the Buccaneers’ goal in the second half.

Jesuit’s speed proved too much for Bloomingdale, as the Tigers got a hat trick from senior midfielder Jacob Vila in a 5-0 win. Vila scored the decider in the 23rd minute before scoring the next two goals for Jesuit (8-2-2). Senior defender Michael Conlon added a goal on a header, and Kurt Sierra scored the Tigers’ final goal.

Jesuit faces a familiar foe today in the semifinals in Palmetto (12-1). The teams have split matches in the region final the past two seasons. Palmetto (now in a different state classification than Jesuit) topped Auburndale 5-0 on Friday.

Both semifinals take place today at 11 a.m., with Steinbrenner and Berkeley Prep playing on Dickie Field and Palmetto and Jesuit squaring off at Newman Stadium, with the final being held at 6 p.m.

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Boys soccer: Connell lifts Steinbrenner