Today’s 6 p.m. high school soccer match at Eastern Florida State College could offer a preview of February’s state championships, for several reasons.
Both Melbourne High, the home team, and Oviedo, the team visiting from outside the county, are unbeaten. The Lions are 12-0-2 and have wins in their past five matches. Melbourne is 12-0. They are in different classifications, and both could be teams playing in the state finals.
Those state finals will return to Brevard County beginning Feb. 5, and that leads to another aspect of the preview: the FHSAA has awarded the state semifinals and finals to Eastern Florida.
“I’ve been there and some of the kids have played there, but we haven’t been there as the Melbourne team,” Bulldogs coach Jerry McCabe said Thursday.
The Bulldogs haven’t done a tremendous amount as a team lately, so they will first have to find a rhythm against the Lions. Melbourne players have been taking finals. The team hasn’t played in eight days, didn’t practice Tuesday, and players have been in and out of practice due to academic demands.
The timing of finals meant Melbourne couldn’t play in the tournament it typically would have attended in Tampa.
“I think they were in the same boat. We were both looking to play somebody,” McCabe said of Oviedo. “The Tampa tournament that we normally go to was going to start on Wednesday, and we were still in final exams.”
Having been tested on academics all week, the Bulldogs and Lions will be tested by top competition tonight. Melbourne midfielder Micah Smoak is the county’s second-leading scorer with 15 goals and 17 assists. Jamie Carlson has contributed six goals and five assists. Goalkeeper Jared Williams has not allowed a goal this season, with 19 saves.
“It’s going to be a good test for both teams,” McCabe said. “We’ve looked pretty solid in almost all areas. One of the most inconsistent things in soccer is goal scoring, when you go up against really good teams, who is going to get the most chances, and who is going to take advantage of them.”
The Bulldogs will face a top Cape Coast Conference team, Merritt Island, in a key match on Jan. 14.
“(Oviedo and Merritt Island) are the two toughest games on our schedule going forward, at least on paper,” McCabe said. “I’m looking forward to it. If you play too many easy games, you get a false sense of being better than you really are. You need to be tested and see what you need to work on.”