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'Small but consistent' soccer team wins by cooperating

By TERRY JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 4, 2001


PEBBLE CREEK -- It was a tough season for Wharton's boys soccer team. They played five state top-10 opponents and made it to the regional semifinals only to succumb to Clearwater, the ultimate state championship squad.

Along the way, the Gryphons recorded their best season ever at 11-5-3, placed second in their district and were ranked in the top 10 in Florida for three weeks. They scored 55 goals for the highest offensive success in the team's four-year history. Because of a tight-marking defense, three of their five losses were by only one point.

In three of their wins, they trailed by two goals at the half, then came back with strong finishes.

"This team was not very big, but it was fast," coach Mike Rowan said. "They always played as a team with patience. The objective was always to get the ball to the center midfields, and they would distribute to the outside wings to work in for a score. They were small, but consistent."

Junior forward Jon Burklo was the striker for the side and the Gryphons' primary offensive weapon. He led the team and set a single-season school scoring record with 23 goals and six assists.

"I felt we really surprised a lot of people this year," Burklo said. "All season we went out and performed as a team. The goals I scored was just part of the flow of the team. I could not have scored if my teammates had not got the ball to me when I was open for a shot. Shane Provost helped a lot there from the midfield, but we all worked as a team."

Joining Burklo in the attack are senior Beau Beaubien, junior Alex Rangel and freshman Shaun Padilla, all forwards. The three worked well with Burklo and the midfield with clean passing. They aided the defense by maintaining the action near the opponents' goal mouth for most of the games.

Sophomore Tinashe "T" Kusema and senior Kjel Horneland provided the final line of de fense as goalkeepers. The two battled for the starting spot until about mid-season, when Kusema moved in to take charge.

Kusema set a new school record with a 1.67 goals-allowed average.

But Horneland gave the Gryphons net guards a strong one-two punch. He logged a 2.00 GAA. Horneland's average is second on the school's lowest goals-allowed average.

Senior team captain Mike Mainieri is the stopper and the sweeper on the back line.

"I remember five specific times he stopped a sure goal by heading or kicking the ball out just before going into the back of the net," Rowan said. "He is one of the finest stoppers I have seen."

Mainieri said he thinks the team did well because "we kept a high intensity level all season."

Junior Nick Jackson and sophomore Juan Sarmiento were two other defenders. Jackson, a co-captain, is one of the best marking backs Rowan says he has ever coached.

Quarterback Shane Provost, a junior three-year starter in midfield, controls the ball in the middle and distributes to the middle or the wings, wherever the open man is positioned.

"Shane has wonderful skills and can hold the ball well under pressure," Rowan said. "He is one of the keys to our success this season."

He is also the team's second leading scorer, with 7 goals and 8 assists.

"Our team came a long way this year," Provost said. "Part of our success was due to experience, but most was to our playing as a team."

Joey Zarella, Rafael Obediente, Sam Saslow, Kevin Collins, Eddie Hurtado, Brian Magro, Austin Voight and Matt Klag made up the balance of the deep midfield lineup. All played and all maintained consistent skill throughout each match.

Rounding out the roster were Carlos Solis, Brian Pautler, Jeff Zwolenski, Paul Pakidis, Kyle Mainieri, Tyler DeStadio, Ricky Rodriguez, Ryan Newsome, Walter Gray and Addy Strasdas.

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