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Familiar face rejoins Tigers' efforts for title


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 21, 2001

TAMPA -- Neal Goldman's loss was Bob Bauman's gain.

When the Jesuit boys basketball team lost to Jefferson on Friday in the Class 4A, District 10 semifinals, it ended the Tigers' season. But it also freed senior Stash Graham to rejoin the soccer team.

Graham backed up goalkeeper Justin Trowbridge last season but chose basketball over soccer this year. With basketball season over and Trowbridge sidelined with mononucleosis, Graham was added to the roster for the state playoffs.

He will start in goal when top-ranked Jesuit (28-2) plays No. 3 Gulf Breeze (25-4) in the Class 2A semifinals at 6 p.m. Thursday at the University of Tampa's Pepin/Rood Stadium.

"If (the basketball team) had won Friday against Jefferson, then we wouldn't be having this conversation," Bauman said, "because we would not have been able to use him."

Bauman learned Feb. 13 that he would be without Trowbridge for the rest of the season. He started freshman Keith Meehan in a 2-1 win over Lake Gibson in Friday's Class 2A, Region 3 final but wanted a more experienced keeper.

Some Jesuit players approached Graham with the idea of returning to the team, and Bauman discussed various scenarios with Goldman, the basketball coach. After the basketball team lost Friday, Graham walked from the gymnasium to the stadium to watch the second half of the soccer game.

He rejoined the team shortly afterward.

Trowbridge, a senior, is one of the top goalkeepers in Florida. But Graham, who plays for the Black Watch Soccer Club and posted five shutouts in a relief role last season, is not far behind.

"He's a top-notch goalie," Bauman said. "We've been very fortunate over the years that I've been there that we've always had very good goaltending."

Not that Jesuit requires much of its goalkeeper.

With pressure from its forwards, ball possession by its midfielders and consistent play from defenders such as Evan Doyle, Adam Thames and Tom Szvetitz, Jesuit limited the number of shots Trowbridge and Meehan faced.

The Tigers allowed just 16 goals in 29 games and recorded 18 shutouts. They had a nine-game shutout streak snapped against Lake Gibson.

"When we talked about putting Keith in goal for Friday's game, we really didn't have an alternative," Bauman said. "One of the ways (assistant coach) Eric Sims looked at it was, our goalkeeper hasn't had to win a game for us this year.

"We weren't ever in a scenario where we were tied or down a goal and there was so much pressure on our defense that our goalkeeper had to win a game for us."

A bigger concern entering the season was who would win games at the other end of the field. The Tigers lost more than 100 points when Rob Daly (52 goals), Bryce Wegerle (29), Erol Belli (15) and Dave Ellis (15) departed after last season.

As it turns out, the answer was everybody.

John Kluft (22 goals, 23 assists) is one of 10 players who has scored six or more goals this season. Scott Golden (14), Sean Sullivan (12), Eric Grzybowski (9) and Ron Guevara (8) also rank among the team's top scorers.

"That's what's so wonderful about this team and why, in some respects, they've exceeded my expectations," Bauman said. "We have balance in our scoring and depth in our bench."

And now, an experienced goalkeeper.

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