The boys soccer players for Merritt Island High don’t know much more about the team from Sunlake than what they’ve learned on the Internet and from a scouting report.
“We’re more worried about ourselves,” said senior Jake Bennett as practice wrapped up on Wednesday. “I think we’re playing very good ball. We’ve got a lot of seniors, and our leadership is good.”
Leading the way is head coach Scooty Carey. His Mustang teams have advanced at least to regional play 16 times going back to 1998. They’re making their sixth trip to the state tournament, having won it all in Class 4A in 2009.
Merritt Island (21-1-1) and Sunlake (30-1-1), of Land O’Lakes, play at 12:30 p.m. in the second Class 3A state semifinal at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne.
It is Carey whose voice is being echoed when his players talk of focusing on themselves.
“At this point, we are highly respectful of their record, the quality of their team and the quality of their coaching,” Carey said. “We’re going to play our game, and we think it will be an exciting match.”
The Mustangs head into the tournament with a head of steam. They won the District 12 tournament and haven’t lost since Dec. 5.
“I can tell everyone’s ready to play,” junior Michael Martin said. “I think we’re definitely doing our best to be focused.”
In building that head of steam that has Merritt Island in a 12-game winning streak, the Mustangs won a piece of the Cape Coast Conference championship with a 2-1 win at Melbourne to end the regular season.
Carey credited the clash with the Bulldogs as helping both teams prep for the postseason, and it was worked for both. Melbourne plays 24 hours after the Mustangs, in a 4A semifinal against Lakewood Ranch (14-7-6).
Melbourne (22-1-1) will be trying to make it a campus sweep in 4A. The girls team won its title last week. The last time the boys won a state title, 2010, it made a Melbourne sweep for the second year in a row.
The Bulldogs are led by Micah Smoak’s 23 goals and 31 assists as well as Jamie Carlson’s 19 goals and 12 assists.