The Ponte Vedra boys soccer team found themselves trailing early, but stormed back to defeat Pensacola Booker T. Washington 3-1 in a Class 6A regional quarterfinal tilt.
The Wildcats got on the board first and took a 1-0 lead early in the first half, but the Sharks responded later in the half as junior Andres Villasana gathered pass through the box from senior Jake McGowan and hammered it home past a sprawling goalie to even the score at halftime.
“We rarely concede first, so getting down was hard because we haven’t really had to experience that,” Ponte Vedra senior Sammy Soares said. “Once we got back to even it was all about finding our rhythm again.”
Senior Michael Hilbert gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead with a rocketed shot inside the bottom left corner of the net.
It was the third goal of the season for Hilbert, and it could not have come at a better time for the Sharks.
“The ball kind of just fell at my feet and I saw an opportunity and just ripped through it,” Hilbert said. “It came right off the cleat and just skipped off the ground and went in. It was an exhilarating feeling.”
The Sharks increased their lead 3-1 late in the second half as senior Aaron Novak headed in a perfectly placed corner kick inside the right post.
“We’ve been working on this new system of offense for about two years now, and it’s finally starting to click, and you can see it in the number of goals we’re scoring,” Soares said. “It’s all coming together, and this is really feeling like the year.”
Soares switched positions in week one of the season and although it was a transition at first, he has really started to come into his own.
“I didn’t know I’d be playing outside back, because I’ve been a centerman my whole life,” Soares said. “I feel like I’ve gelled.”
The Sharks will travel more than five hours to play Tallahassee Chiles in the regional semifinals Feb. 12.
“They are supposed to be the hardest opponent we’ve had all season, but we’re just going to go in there and play our game and hopefully make the trip back with a victory,” Hilbert said.
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