A four-year journey from worst to first

Jennifer Garrido, Editor in Chief

When the varsity boys’ soccer team defeated Tampa Berkeley Prep 3-2 to claim in the FHSAA Class 2A state championship Friday, a couple of Wildcats remembered the Buccaneers from an encounter four years ago when the beat the Wildcats 6-0 in a regular-season home game.

According to Head Coach John Krehbiel, the team began to give up early and didn’t see the point of playing such a powerful team.

“I remember the players looking at me like ‘Coach, why in the world would we play them?’ and my response was always positive,” Krehbiel said. “I tried to explain to them that unless we were challenged to play harder teams, we would never get any better.”

The team was down by 6 before the start of the second half when then-junior Sebastian Crain offered the team a deal that would steer them clear of full-blown humiliation.

“Their attitude of defeat got so bad that he told them if we didn’t lose by the slaughter rule, then he would buy the whole team pizza afterward,” Krehbiel said. “It worked, because we stopped Berkeley from scoring any more points, and we walked away with the knowledge that we turned our mindset around completely.”

Junior Liam Wixted made the varsity soccer team in seventh grade, and remembers that lesson well.

“I didn’t play in that game because I was injured, but I remember getting destroyed,” Wixted said. “They were just a much more physical team and had a better understanding of the game than we did at the time.”

Wixted said he expected his team to turn the tables Friday, and was confident in his team’s motivation to win.

“It is encouraging more than anything to know that we’ve been given a chance to play them,” he said before the title game. “I think we have a lot more on them than they have on us because they think it’s just going to be handed to them. That’s what happened with the Bolles.

Wixted clearly has enjoyed the team’s four-year metamorphosis.

“Everyone on the team has the right mindset now,” he said. “This is our chance to avenge ourselves. It’s motivation for all of us. We are the true underdog story.”