tampabay.com

Last year's state loss haunts Tigers

Jesuit aims to get back to state, and win, after coming up short vs. Jensen Beach.

By SCOTT PURKS
Published February 1, 2007


TAMPA - The timing of the loss, and the high-scoring nature of the loss (4-3 to Jensen Beach in last year's Class 4A state semifinals) annoys Jesuit keeper Justin Morris to no end.

"We hadn't given up four goals to anybody all season and then we do it in that game," Morris said. "I don't know what we were thinking, but our heads weren't in it. It was a crazy, crazy game. Yeah, I think about it. I've thought about it a lot."

And it has motivated the senior more than ever. This year, if Jesuit is fortunate to reach a state semifinal, the Tigers will feature a quicker, stronger, smarter keeper, whose name happens to be Justin Morris. They also could meet up with Jensen Beach again, which is still alive at 23-2-1.

"Last year Justin was good, but he did have a few little weaknesses," Jesuit coach Bob Bauman said. "This year he really doesn't have a weakness. He wins battles for balls, he positions himself extremely well and he's just more confident overall.

"I know that the team has total confidence in him. They know that he always has their backs."

Morris said the improvement comes from working with Kevin Keelan, a former professional keeper in England who now resides in Tampa.

"We did agility and speed drills, running to cones and back and jumping after balls," Morris said. "I could tell a big difference in my (explosiveness)."

Morris said the drills sometimes got tedious, but making a return trip to state kept him motivated.

The first order of business will be winning tonight's Class 4A region quarterfinal against Sebring, a task that doesn't look too difficult as the Blue Streak comes in with a 7-12-4 record, which pales to Jesuit's 20-3-2.

"But we're not taking anybody for granted," Bauman said. "We had some focus issues early in the season and we've tried hard to keep that focus and close games out. We've done better lately (going 9-0 after the Christmas break) but we know we can't let up."

Bauman reminds his team two of its losses came when they got up 1-0 only to "relax and think we had it made and then watch as the other team came back to win. We must keep applying pressure."

Offensively that doesn't appear to be too much of a problem, considering three Tiger forwards, Cody Walker, Arthur Beil and Lee VanGurp, have scored 18, 17 and 14 goals, respectively.

Overall the Tigers have racked up 90 goals, yet Bauman said you would think the strength of the team is defense, which has recorded 12 shutouts and allowed only 13 goals.

"But then we also remember that we gave up four in the state semifinal," Bauman said. "See, we have to remember that. We have to."

Morris, for one, said, "I remember it well. I definitely do."

Tonight

Boys Soccer Region Quarterfinals
All games at 7. Admission is $6.

Class 6A
- Durant (12-4-2) at Countryside (26-0-1)
- Alonso (16-5-1) at Sarasota (22-2-2)

Class 5A
- Wesley Chapel (12-6-2) at Freedom (9-3-4)
- Wharton (15-2) at Land O'Lakes (20-4-2)
- Chamberlain (11-5-0) at Palm Harbor U. (17-4-1)
- East Lake (12-7-4) at Hillsborough (9-5-1)

Class 4A
- Sebring (7-12-4) at Jesuit (20-3-2)

Class 2A
- Calvary Christian (15-6-2) at Tampa Prep (22-3-2)