Boys’ Varsity Soccer ends an incredible journey to States

Quinn Lennon

The 2021-2022 Ransom Everglades Boys Soccer season will be remembered as one of the school’s most successful seasons in its history. In their 23 games this season, the Raiders outscored their opponents 62-11. The team even ended the season ranked 3rd in the entire state of Florida and 5th in the entire country, according to MaxPreps.  Though they were unable to clinch the state championship in their matchup against Tampa Prep in Deland, FL, their journey to the final match was an unforgettable run that ignited school spirit in the RE community.  

“I specifically remember that Juan [Rivera ’22] gave a really passionate speech about how we were playing for something bigger than ourselves,” said team captain Rylan Sadler ’22. “We were playing for all the alums who had dreamed of making it as far as we did, especially Antonio Tsialas, who left a big mark on our program. I remember telling the guys that if they were gonna give up now, they’d better ask for a sub and sit on the bench.” 

The run-up to the state championship started on Wednesday, February 17, when Ransom Everglades hosted rival Immaculata-LaSalle for the Regional Championship and the right to participate in the 3A Florida State Championship. The two teams are far from strangers; they played in the “Battle of the Bay” earlier this season, in which RE prevailed over the Lions with a score of 2-1.  

Going into this game, the team was committed to avoiding past mistakes. “In years past, we had matchups that we thought would be easy wins, yet our overconfidence led us to underperform in those games and lose. This year, we had the experience and maturity to foster a better mindset and prevent that from happening again,” Sadler said.  

The game’s start time was pushed back to accommodate for the downpour hitting the area at the time. Still, that didn’t stop many members of the RE community from coming out in support of the team. The stands were filled to the brim with both RE and LaSalle fans, and the energy at Robert E. Walker Field was palpable. “The crowd was packed,” Colin Goff ’24 said, “I think a lot of people lost their voice after the game.” It was safe to say that the fans were ready for the game to begin. 

The game started slow, with both teams feeling the other out, hoping to capitalize on the other’s mistake. The two traded blows, with LaSalle’s goalkeeper and RE goalkeeper Jasper Broad ’22 both making numerous saves to keep the score deadlocked at 0 heading to the end of the second half. 

With not much time left before the end of regulation, both teams began to play much more aggressively, eventually leading to a RE corner kick. With a little less than three minutes left in the half, Nicky Goldberg ’23 kicked the ball into the sea of players near the goal with team captain Dillan “Deisel” Kaye ’22 headering the ball, which found its way into the top-left corner of the goal.  

The crowd erupted: the bleachers started to shake from the sheer energy of the crowd. Fans were jumping up and down, piling up at each other, and cheering the whole time. The place was in pure euphoria. 

“The whole game had been a dog fight. LaSalle had chances, we had chances.” Kaye said, “I beat the guy who was guarding me [on the corner kick] … We’ve practiced the play so much that I didn’t even look to see if I scored. I had already started running to the fans to celebrate before anyone had registered that I scored. It was definitely one of the best moments of my life and something I will never forget.” 

As great as that goal was, there were still two and a half minutes left, and no game is ever over until the final whistle is blown. LaSalle’s offensive attack now reached a fever pitch: it was do or die for them. They continued to bombard the Raiders’ defense with push after push, but the team held firm through it. In one last gasp attempt by the Lions with 10 seconds left, Kaye and Sadler were each able to clear the ball away, leaving the clock to hit zero. 

And like that, the celebration began. The field was immediately stormed by a sea of fans running straight to the players, eventually dogpiling them. The celebration continued through the night as the team was then given the Regional Championship trophy to commemorate the incredible game. 

But that wasn’t the end of this season’s story. On Saturday, February 19, RE squared off against Bolles High School (Jacksonville, FL). With the Raiders holding home-field advantage, they were able to play in front of their home fans. 

This game started with fireworks early, with Sadler scoring off of a corner kick yet again kicked by Goldberg. And just like that, the Raiders were up 1-0 only four minutes in. That would remain the score for the rest of the game, as each team squandered chances to capitalize on the harsh field conditions. While the game was extremely hard-fought, the two teams’ biggest opponent wasn’t the other team: it was the weather. 

In quintessential Miami fashion, buckets of water fell on the players and those in attendance. The conditions continued to worsen, causing more and more opportunities to be missed due to slipping or issues. At one point near the end of the first half, the field was so wet that the ball would actually stop after rolling on the turf for too long. 

In the end, RE prevented any last-second attempt by the Bulldogs and came off the puddle-filled field victorious, giving them the chance to travel to Deland to compete in the 3A Florida State Championship. 

Their rivals, the Tampa Prep Terrapins, are a team that shouldn’t be taken lightly. There’s a reason why the Raiders were 2nd in the state up to this point, and it’s them. The Terrapins had had a dominant season, going 20-0-0, leading them to be ranked the best in not just the state of Florida but also the entire country. In a hard-fought bout between two of the best teams in the country, Tampa Prep eventually came out on top 2-0. 

The game was a back-and-forth struggle for the first 30 minutes, with both teams pushing through the defense only to be stopped short of the goal. After one of these chances for Tampa Prep led to a penalty kick, the score was 1-0 in favor of the Terrapins. The score would remain that way for the rest of the first half, as RE went into the half down 1-0. The Raiders understood that “we were playing well and that merely a few defensive mistakes coupled with missed opportunities on attack had led to the 1-0 deficit we were in at the half,” according to Sadler. 

The story of the game would remain much the same, with both teams trading opportunities and defenses remaining stingy. Neither offense seemed to be able to mount anything. 

The last 10 minutes of the game were a desperate struggle for survival by the Raiders. They took chance after chance, but Tampa’s defense held strong. With five minutes left, an errant opportunity by the Raiders led to a goal on the other side of the field for Tampa Prep. And with that, an incredible season was all but finished. 

The last five minutes came and went, and by the end, the Terrapins hoisted up the State Championship trophy. Despite seemingly dominating time of possession and having more feasible chances to score, the Raiders’ offense was unable to prevail. 

The RE community, however, was no less proud of this team. Droves of students packed the fan buses to the game to support the Raiders in person, while countless more students, staff, and alumni watched the live stream of the game in the Posner Lecture Hall, at home, and at many more locations across the country. While the team may have just missed the ultimate goal, the season will be one for the history books.