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Triton boys clipped in state soccer semifinals

By CJ HADDAD  - | Mar 2, 2021

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Such was the case last Friday as the Mariner boys soccer team fell in the 4A State Semifinal to an undefeated Arnold club, 3-0.  

While the disappointment of not being able to return to the state final and avenge their loss last year was eminent, this year’s edition of the Tritons were exciting to watch and made history along the way.  

“I’m overwhelmed with their resilience and their desire to win,” said Mariner head coach Martin Cardenas. “I look back at the season as a big success for us to get here given our youth and loss of offensive talent heading into the season and we went beyond my expectations. I give thanks to God for getting us this far and having the season that we had.” 

The Tritons found themselves in an early hole, as a free kick just outside of the penalty area off the boot of Dawson Miller slid its way into the back on the net just 4 minutes in.  

In minute 24, the Marlins (24-0-2) would extend their lead to 2-0 after Tristan Gandy flicked home the chance after a scramble in front of the net where keeper Deric Black came to punch out the ball but was unsuccessful.  

“It’s always hard to be behind, but we didn’t help ourselves,” Cardenas said. “We knew that we could beat them outside, and we did, but we didn’t go there as often as we could have, and when we did our guys didn’t take on that responsibility to take them on.” 

Both teams would have their attacking chances throughout the game. The size and early lead allowed Arnold to drop back once possession was lost and disrupt Mariner’s chances. The visitors also had a few players who could get distance on throw-in chances, meaning any throwing possession inside of 30 yards resulted in a scoring opportunity.  

“It wasn’t a surprise to us what their game is – which is that long throw and finding guys in the box,” Cardenas said. “We make a couple mistakes defensively in our area and they take advantage of it.  

“Offensively, we didn’t create as many chances as we normally do, but they’re a very smart team. I thought we wore them down a little bit and had a couple of opportunities, but we were ineffective and they deserve the win.” 

Arnold added another goal just before the final whistle to cement the win and punch their ticket to the 4A state championship game.  

“They were just aggressive,” Cardenas said. “They knew that they could physically have their way with us and they did. They brought it physically the entire time. We responded well at times, but not where it matters, which is in front of the goal.” 

The Tritons had nothing to hang their heads about despite the obvious heartbreak that comes with a big-game loss. Throughout the season, the team overcame injury, the unknown of playing through a pandemic and having to replace a player who set the school record for goals scored.  

This year’s graduating seniors are the first group in Mariner history to have won four district titles, appear in in four regional finals, make two Final Fours (back-to-back) and were part of last year’s first-ever trip to the state final. 

Seniors include Nicco Gerke, Sean Paul Negron, Santiago Guerrero, Ignacio Velardez, Owen Osgood, Marcos Grimado, Marcello Afonso and Tiziano Nogara. 

“They’re a senior group that’s leaving milestones to be met,” Cardenas said. “They didn’t break a whole lot of individual records, but as a group, I think they worked well together. They hustle and they play hard and they leave their heart on the field, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.” 

 — Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj