TARPON SPRINGS — The Tarpon Springs boys soccer team clinched a spot in the postseason for the first time since 1997 Wednesday night with a 4-1 semifinal win over Lakewood.
“It definitely is nice to be back where we used to be,” said first-year head coach George Hourdas, a player on the 1991 Spongers team that won districts. “We won some games in the past and now we're trying to get the program back to where it was in its heyday in the 80s and 90s.”
The convincing win sends tournament-host Tarpon Springs (5-9-2) into Friday night's Class 3A District 10 final against third-seeded Dunedin, which beat No. 2 Largo, 3-2. The Spongers and Falcons played to a 2-2 draw in their lone regular-season meeting.
Tarpon Springs dominated most of Wednesday's contest, outshooting Lakewood 21-9 overall and 14-5 on frame.
After sending waves of attacks in the Spartans' third for the better part of 20 minutes, the Spongers finally broke through in the 22nd when Kostantinos Pseftelis converted his first of two goals on the night. The senior controlled a throw-in from Diogo Rodrigues inside the top of the 18 and beat Lakewood keeper Elliot Sailes.
“Time of possession was definitely on our side,” Hourdas said. “We were passing the ball around, we were playing our game, everything was going as planned, but we just weren't finishing.”
Lakewood (4-10-1) could do little more than repel Tarpon Springs' near-constant pressure but took advantage of that Spongers aggressiveness in the 29th when Cameron Ray got loose for a run down the middle. Tarpon Springs keeper Vasilios Makryllos came out to stuff Ray's first attempt but the rebound came right back to the attacker's foot in front of an open net.
Tarpon Springs managed to regroup and stem Lakewood's newfound momentum prior to halftime. It retook the lead in the 38th minute, again off a Rodrigues throw-in. This time it was senior Peter Kouskoutis finishing the opportunity.
“We just had to keep fighting,” Pseftelis said. “We couldn't pull back and make any more mistakes. The first goal they got was our biggest mistake and it almost brought us down, but our captains kept our heads up and brought the team back together to keep playing.”
Lakewood came out of the break looking ready to even the score again, but Makryllos and the Tarpon Springs defense preserved the team's narrow lead until the offense provided breathing room.
Rodrigues added a goal to his two assists in the 67th and Pseftelis capped the scoring about eight minutes later to go up 4-1.
Slightly dampening the mood was a red card picked up by junior Hunter Kingett after the final whistle. A Lakewood player knocked down a Sponger on the sideline in front of the Spartans bench as time expired and a brief scuffle broke out. From that, one Spartan and Kingett were hit with reds.
That means Kingett is required to sit out Friday's district championship game and the Spongers will have to play a man down.
29' – Cameron Ray – Goal (Assist: Ashani Taylor)
22' – Kostantinos Pseftelis – Goal (Assist: Diogo Rodrigues)
38' – Peter Kuskoutis – Goal (Assist: Diogo Rodrigues)
67' – Diogo Rodrigues – Goal
75' – Kostantinos Pseftelis – Goal