By Don Trello
The Laker/Lutz News Correspondent
Michael Lee scored the winning goal at the 62-minute mark to give Ponte Vedra a 2-1 win over host Sunlake in the Class 3A boys soccer state semifinals Feb. 8.
The Seahawks (30-1) finished the most successful season in their six-year history by winning their second district title and first regional championship.
“At the start of the season I didn’t think we would get this far,” said Sunlake freshman goalkeeper Danny Hrenko.
The Seahawks took a 1-0 lead when sophomore forward Connor Spencer put a shot past Sharks (23-2-4) goalkeeper Kevin Shields in the 43rd minute off midfielder Allen Harasimink’s 30-yard pass.
“I saw the keeper come out, and I thought I just had to take it,” Spencer said. “I just volleyed it, and it went in. We had a heck of a season. You couldn’t ask for more from anybody.”
Ponte Vedra evened the score 1-1 on Michael Parado’s goal less than seven minutes after Spence’s tally.
“I thought we had chances early in the game,” said Sunlake coach Sam Koleduk. “We had about a 20-minute lapse on offense. Early, I thought we had three breakaway goals. Their goalie is the strongest one we’ve seen all year.
“We had a great group of kids that really worked their butts off,” he added. “They were very close-knit and coachable.”
The loss ends the high school career for Sunlake senior forward Connor Gilboy, who set a single-season Pasco County record with a nation-leading 60 goals.
“It’s been a really steep ride to come here my freshman year and win a regional title,” Gilboy said. “I had no idea it would be like this when I started here. I believe I was put in place and evolved through the soccer program’s biggest growth.”
Gilboy, who has a 4.4 grade point average, was also the kicker/punter on the Seahawks football team and is keeping his college options open.
Stanford and Wake Forest are among the schools showing interest in Gilboy’s soccer ability, while the University of Florida looked at him as a placekicker.
“It’s a tossup between football and soccer,” Gilboy said. “It might just be academics.”
Sunlake returns nine starters next season, and Koleduk said the Seahawks will continue the high level of play set this season.
“We have a very strong nucleus,” Koleduk said. “We will be deeper and stronger next year.”
Spencer, sophomore midfielder Chris Wilkerson and Hrenko should lead the talented crop of returning players.
“Chris is amazing; he’s our heart and soul down the side,” Koleduk said. “He had 27 assists and 12 goals.”
Spencer finished the season with 40 goals and has a two-year total of 64.
“Connor Spencer has a great touch,” said Koleduk. “He is the best pure goal scorer I’ve coached.”
Hrenko has been on the Florida State Olympic Development team the past two years, and was a member of an all-star team that played in England in 2011.
“It was difficult to put a freshman in goal, but from Day 1 I was confident in him,” Koleduk said. “He’s a state-level goalkeeper.”
Hrenko’s 21 shutouts are best in the nation.
“I’ve always been nervous,” Hrenko replied when asked about starting in goal as a freshman. “My teammates tell me to keep my head up. You always have to keep your mind in the game. It’s difficult at times, but you have to keep focused.
“I’m proud I lead the country in shutouts,” he added. “I owe a lot to my defense. I’m satisfied with the way I played this year, but we are going to step it up next year.”
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