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Boys soccer: Plant loses 7A title match in overtime



As a player, Janessa Taddei helped Plant’s girls soccer team reach the playoffs plenty of time in her high school career. 

But she never appeared in a state championship match. 

Taddei went on to play at Florida International before returning to her alma mater to take over the Panthers’ boys program into 2016. She turned around a struggling program, guiding the boys to impressive records.

Still, no state title appearance. 

This season, it finally happened. 

No more bad bounces. No more stumbling in tough matchups. Plant’s boys put it all together to advance to Saturday’s Class 7A state final. It marked the first time a soccer team from the school — boys or girls — made it this far. 

The only thing this run did not produce was a state title. After going through a scoreless tie in regulation, the Panthers allowed a goal in the first overtime and were unable to rally in a 1-0 loss. 

The outcome did not diminish what was accomplished. 

After all, Plant ended years of frustration just to be on high school soccer’s biggest stage.

The matchup against Naples Gulf Coast was even. Both teams entered as the top two teams in 7A (the Panthers were No. 2 and the Sharks were No. 1) according to MaxPreps. 

That showed as they battled through regulation and two overtimes before determining a winner. Shots were thwarted in what was expected to be a defensive match. 

Near the end of regulation, Plant was down to 10 players after Hayden Judge picked up a blue card.

No matter. The Panthers kept Naples Gulf Coast off the scoreboard to force overtime. This was exactly the low-scoring, tight contest Plant wanted considering it had won six straight matches that were decided by a goal.

In the first overtime, the Sharks’ Marcello Maffei got free down the right side and connected on a shot for the lead. The Panthers had two good looks in potential game-tying shots but both were turned away. 

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Boys Soccer

Marcello Valbuena named state boys soccer player of the year



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



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



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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