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Boys Soccer

Jesuit coach Eric Sims wins Class 5A state honor

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Jesuit's Eric Sims

Eric Sims, who led Jesuit to its first state title in boys soccer since 2001, was named the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 5A coach of the year. The winners in each classification were selected by a panel of high school boys soccer coaches and reporters. 

Sims won a state title with the Tigers as a player in 1995. He went on to coach at Gaither for 12 seasons before returning to lead his alma mater in 2013. 

In 19 seasons coaching soccer in Hillsborough County, Sims has an overall record of 355-80-33 (154-28-9 at Jesuit and 201-62-24 at Gaither) and has guided those programs to a combined six state semifinal appearances. 

This season was perhaps Sims greatest coaching job, not only for winning his first state title but also for the way in which the Tigers captured that elusive championship. 

Jesuit's Eric Sims

Jesuit graduated 14 seniors from last season’s team, a squad Sims said was the most talented ever had at the school. The Tigers returned just three players who had significant playing time from a year ago: seniors Zach Board, Lucas Gobea and Robin Tionko.

Board tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee nearly a year ago and did not return until January. The North Florida-bound forward came on at the end of the season and had three goals, including the winner, in the state final. Carson Bien also played a pivotal role, scoring a team-leading 28 goals, including 11 that were game-winners.

Besides Sims, the Tigers also received more accolades with Bien selected as the 5A state player of the year.

The pieces all came together. As Jesuit kept winning, Sims reminded his players of the state title he won as a senior. Sims coaxed them. He pushed them. 

It all worked. The Tigers ended years of frustration by winning it all. Their accomplishment was recognized throughout the area, including a video from the Rowdies.

Sims has been awarded for it, too. 

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Boys Soccer

Marcello Valbuena named state boys soccer player of the year

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Tampa Catholic’s Marcello Valbuena, who led the Class 3A state champions in scoring, was named Mr. Soccer, the award given to the top boys player in the state by the Florida Dairy Farmers. 

Valbuena, named the 3A player of the year last week, received 12 of the 17 first place votes and had 134 points, 52 more than Fort Myers Canterbury’s McLaren Baggett, the 2A player of the year. 

This is the ninth time an area player has won the top overall honor in boys soccer. The last was Tampa Prep’s Shaddy Douidar in 2013. 

Valbuena, a senior forward, decided to play high school soccer for the first time this season after playing strictly at the club level. The University of Tampa signee finished with 36 goals and five assists. In the 3A state title match, Valbuena connected on two goals within an eight-minute span to give Tampa Catholic its first lead, one that would last the rest of the match to secure the Crusaders’ first state title in boys soccer. 

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Boys Soccer

Weeki Wachee’s Seth Tarbox named 4A player of the year

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Weeki Wachee’s Seth Tarbox, one of the area’s top playmakers, was named the Class 4A state player of the year in boys soccer by the Florida Dairy Farmers.

The senior forward teamed with Jacob Kelly to form a dynamic 1-2 punch for the Hornets. Kelly scored a team-high 33 goals, many of which were set up by Tarbox. 

Tarbox was adept at putting the ball through the net, too. The Warner signee finished with 25 goals and 25 assists to help Weeki Wachee advance to the region finals. 

The winners in each classification were selected through voting from a statewide panel of boys soccer coaches and media representatives. They are now eligible to be named the overall winner in the state, which will go through another round of voting and likely be announced next week.  

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Boys Soccer

Boys soccer: Jesuit unable to repeat as 5A state champions

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Winning a state title is difficult.

Repeating as a state champion is even more challenging. 

Graduation can take away key players. Complacency can take hold. Anything can happen. 

Jesuit’s boys soccer team knows. 

The Tigers, one of the area’s most storied programs, has won seven state titles, second locally behind Clearwater Central Catholic’s nine championships.  But only during a three-year stretch from 1997-99 was Jesuit to win those titles consecutively. 

That was the task the Tigers faced after taking home the 5A title last season. Jesuit said goodbye to 16 players who graduated, including Carson Bien, the 5A state player of the year. 

Losing that much talent off a roster would pose difficulties for any program. But Tigers always have reinforcements.

The newcomers filled in adequately. The holdovers took on bigger roles as leaders. The wins kept coming, so much Jesuit found itself in a familiar spot by making it back to Spec Martin Stadium in DeLand for Saturday’s 5A title match. 

But the Tigers could not hold on to a first half lead, falling in overtime to Belen Jesuit 2-1.

In the first half, Jesuit took the lead on a goal from Ty Cabbasa. Belen Jesuit answered early in the second half on a header from Aidan Miles to tie the match. 

It stayed that way through the end of regulation and one overtime period. 

In the second overtime, the Wolverines converted on a second-chance ball off a free kick to take the lead.

Jesuit tried to rally but could not get a shot to fall through the net that would have tied the match.

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