By EMILY NIPPS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 4, 2002
TAMPA -- In the faceoff between Land O'Lakes and Jesuit in the Soccer Tournament of Champions at Ed Radice Sports Complex, neither team played its best in the 40-degree temperatures, drizzling rain and wind.
Neither team played its worst, either.
By the end, the Gators and Tigers were happy to just shake hands on a 2-2 tie and move on to the next round.
"We're happy with the tie, obviously, but we played very sporadically," Land O'Lakes coach Mark Pearson said. "We just floated in and out ... a tie was very deserving."
The game started slowly for the Gators, who were down by a goal in the first 30 seconds after Jesuit's Joe Rotolo scored on a penalty kick.
The Gators (8-3-3) made no shots on Tigers goalkeeper Sean O'Sullivan in the first half, but remained aggressive in the second half.
In the 48th minute, Gators midfielder Chris Gray took control of the ball deep on the right wing and dribbled just inside the penalty box. He took a low shot that was almost saved, but the wet ball slipped out of O'Sullivan's hands.
Tied 1-1, Jesuit forward Danny Hamzah scored on a long throw-in to regain the lead for the Tigers in the 65th minute. But a defensive breakdown by the Tigers (13-1-3) gave Gray another chance to tie the game, and he did so after streaking to the inside of the box, trapping a crossing ball and making the goal.
"We were certainly disappointed to give up that goal in the last few minutes of the game," Jesuit coach Bob Bauman said. "This is a good tournament and we were up against a good team. Unfortunately, that first goal was a little bit of a lapse in concentration."
The Gators had a chance to win on a point-blank shot, but O'Sullivan made a tough save to preserve the tie.
Today, the Gators will face Gaither at 6 p.m., while Jesuit, the defending champion, will play Clearwater Central Catholic also at 6. Gaither is among the favorites to the win the tournament. The Cowboys defeated CCC 3-0 Thursday.