TARPON SPRINGS — Sixteen years is a long time to wait for anything.
For Tarpon Springs boys soccer, the proud and once-prominent program that won back-to-back state titles in 1984 and 1985 and took silver in 1986, has found itself mired in an inescapable rut since 1997.
That was the last time the Spongers reached the postseason. Since its first playoff appearance in 1981, Tarpon Springs teams had qualified a respectable eight times between then and 1997, winning 13 of 19 contests including the glory years from 1984-86.
So what happened during the back end of the 20th century to derail an established program so dramatically?
While there may be a number of suspects – unfavorable district realignments, coaching changes, etc. – North Pinellas’ soccer landscape began undeniably morphing.
In that time period – literally a lifetime to most current high-schoolers – a little school in Palm Harbor popped up while one on the other side of Lake Tarpon decided to beef up its soccer chops.
Add that new competition with already quality programs at a couple other Pinellas County schools and Tarpon Springs suddenly found itself getting the squeeze.
Until this year, that is.
The Spongers not only broke their unenviable streak, but did so with the added flair of winning a Class 3A District 10 championship last Friday by beating Dunedin 2-0.
“It definitely is nice to be back where we used to be,” said first-year head coach George Hourdas. “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.”
Hourdas knows a thing or two about those earlier times because he lived through them as a member of the 1991 district-title team.
Once a part of the continuation, Hourdas now gets to lead the revival. Helping that cause is a senior class that has laid a sturdy foundation for future Spongers.
“We’ve been wanting this for such a long time now, especially us seniors,” said forward Kostantinos Pseftelis after scoring two goals in the 4-1 semifinal win over Lakewood. “We play with our heart every single game and we’ve been waiting for this since freshman year.”
The Spongers will hit the pitch Thursday night at 7 to host District 3A-9 runner-up Bradenton Southeast in a region quarterfinal.
Full coverage, including photos, will be available following the match at www.suncoastnews.com.