Local Sports

Blue Streaks hang tough

SEBRING - The Sebring Blue Streaks boys soccer team locked up third place in the Class 3A-District 11 standings with a physical 1-0 win over Lake Wales Thursday night at Firemen's Field.

With the win, Sebring improved to 7-6-2 overall and 5-4-1 in the district, while Lake Wales dropped to 8-6 overall and 6-4 in the district for second place.

"Obviously an exciting match, very high intensity the whole game," said Sebring soccer coach Keith Bowyer. "I loved that part. We are coming off a really good set of games. We had a three-game winning streak last week and lost to Auburndale on Tuesday, but proved we can play with them and we are going to have to play with them to win the district."

Sebring had several shots on goal in the first half. Four minutes into the game, Larry Gilchrist fired a shot from the left side that sailed just over the net.

Two minutes later, Gilchrist passed the ball to Ben Perez, who had his shot blocked by the Lake Wales keeper, Spencer Maldonado.

Less than two minutes later, Gilchrist would perform a spin move 20 yards in front of the goal to take a shot, only to have it go wide left.

Midway through the first half, Gilchrist dribbled the ball down field against three Lake Wales defenders, only to have his shot stopped again by the Highlander goalie.

Sebring took several more shots in the first half, only to have them blocked or they just missed the mark as they went into the intermission in a scoreless tie.

"I felt like that we were the dominant team," said Bowyer. "But their keeper really kept them in the game."

Sebring broke the ice four minutes into the second half. Awarded a free kick 30 yards out on the right side of the field, Filemon Chavez kicked a crossing shot in front of the goal where Gilchrist redirected for the score to give the Blue Streaks a 1-0 lead.

Halfway through the second half, Gilchrist had a header bounced off the crossbar of the goal and with 11 minutes to play had another shot ricochet off the top as the score remained 1-0.

With 4:20 left in the game, Gilchrist and Maldonado, the goalie for Lake Wales would duel in a multi-shot showdown. Gilchrist, who was within 10 yards of the goal on the right side, took a hard shot at the goal.

Maldonado raised both hands chest level to block the shot. The ball bounced back to Gilchrist, who promptly took another hard shot at goal and again was blocked by Maldonado before being cleared out by the Highlanders defense.

The Sebring offense kept pressure on Lake Wales, preventing them from developing any offensive traction or a clean shot throughout the second half, earning the Blue Streaks the victory.

"I think we have rebuilt the chemistry and I'm very happy in the direction we have gone," said Bowyer. "The last four games have just been huge confidence builders. At Avon Park, we had the chemistry, but the confidence was not there. Now the confidence is there and it is a nice change to see."

Sebring's next game will be on the road as the face the Frostproof Bulldogs on Jan. 7. Then their last two games will be at home before the start of the district tournament.