Through the past four seasons, the Tate Aggies boys soccer team has been making strides to take their program to the next level.
Under head coach Austin King, it appears the Aggies are firing on all cylinders to start King’s fifth season with Tate.
The Aggies have raced out a 5-0 start, beating District 1-4A opponents Escambia, Milton, Pace and defending district champion Navarre.
“We’re fortunate to bring back 13 letter winners and nine starters this season,” King said. “In a district this big and difficult, it really pays to have guys who have been in the system for a while. We were a younger tam last year. But I’ve got a great group of leaders that are juniors and seniors this year. I think we finally have the pieces and experience to compete at a high level.”
Tate’s most recent win came Thursday over Navarre, when L.J. Estes – Tate’s leading goal scorer last season – netted a goal with five mins to play to seal a 1-0 win.
Monday night, the Aggies will seek to remain perfect and pick up another District 1-4A win when Tate travels to Niceville.
“Up until last year, Niceville had won ten-straight district championships,” King said. “Niceville and Navarre are kind of the perennial powers in this district. After them, I think we are right there. Washington has the ability to be a good team I think. In our district, I think there are four or five teams that could beat eachother on any night. It never gets boring.”
King has stressed the competitiveness of District 1-4A to his team, and the Aggies won’t take any games off this season.
“Just because we beat Navarre doesn’t mean we will beat Niceville,” King said. “It’s a long (20-game) season. We’ve still got room to improve. But so far, I think our guys have seen that with hard work and by sticking together we can achieve great things.”
While Estes has been helping lead the offense, the Aggies have seen strong goal keeping from sophomore Christian Todavich.
Todavich finished with eight saves in the win over Navarre, though he is not the team’s primary starter.
Evan Legassey – a junior who is Tate’s starting kicker for the football – has missed soccer games due to Tate’s playoff run in football, and is also the Aggies starting goalie.
But according to King, having two talented goal keepers can be a good problem to have.
“Christian (Todavich) has stepped us as a sophomore and played every game for us so far,” King said. “He has done a great job, but I know when Evan (Legassey) gets back it will be a battle (for who starts). I think the two of them make each other better. In my opinion, both keepers would start for almost any team in our district.”
Starting hot has been a theme for the Tate girls team as well.
Under coach Tony Gage in his 23rd year with Tate, the Aggies are unbeaten (6-0-1) with one tie to Arnold High on the season.
“We’re a young group, but we have been working hard since summer,” Gage said. “We’ve got one senior, Kailey Bosinger (goalie). The rest are all pretty much 10th graders and juniors. We’ve also got four freshman.”
And though the Aggies are not laden with seniors, Gage says he has found strong leadership early in this season.
“Our three captains: Brittany Rankins, Abby Edgar and Emma Grissom (team-high 21 goals) have done a really good job of building team chemistry and involving everyone,” Gage said. “We know we are a very young group .. there are no delusions. We know we are learning and we are focusing on winning each half and take things one game at a time.”
While Gage is pleased with Tate’s start, he knows the competition will ratchet up for his Aggies.
“We’re getting ready to step into the deep end of the pool in our district,” Gage said. “We’ve got Pace (on Tuesday night), Navarre, Niceville and Milton coming up. We will see what we are made of here in a couple weeks.”
Tate Aggies Boys Varsity
Jake Estes – Fr.
Sam Piazza – Fr.
Christian Todavich – So.
Scott Gonzalez – So.
Evan Legassey – Jr.
Jessi Piazza – Jr.
Caleb Ellis – Jr.
L.J. Estes – Jr.
Ryan Gonzalez – Jr.
Ryan Mims – Jr.
Evan Jones – Jr.
Josh McKinley – Jr.
Jared Stacey – Sr.
Justin Shelton – Sr.
Brett Henry – Sr.
Mohammad Abdelqader – Sr.
Justin Buck – Sr.
Nick Todavich – Sr.
Jordan Bennett – Sr.
Can Tate stay perfect?
Who: Tate Aggies vs. Niceville Eagles
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Niceville High