Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Surprises Left on Kenny's Schedule; Crusaders Prepared for State Playoffs by Facing Best Competition Around

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Surprises Left on Kenny's Schedule; Crusaders Prepared for State Playoffs by Facing Best Competition Around

Article excerpt

Byline: Clayton Freeman

To get to the state boys soccer finals in Melbourne, Bishop Kenny knew it needed to sample the rest of Florida first.

Now, the Crusaders have reached their final destination of the season, starting with Tuesday's Class 2A boys soccer semifinal against Tampa Catholic.

Bishop Kenny coach John Auldridge scheduled a veritable Murderers' Row of top-tier high school opposition this year, and he's been rewarded with a battle-hardened squad just in time for the state tournament at Melbourne's Tom McIntyre Stadium.

"I was looking at rankings, records, where people had finished in the past," he said. "We wanted teams who play in a manner that we're going to have a really good match and learn from it."

Between Dec. 21 and Jan. 9, the Crusaders packed their itinerary with trips to state powers Tampa Berkeley Prep, 3A semifinalist Tampa Jesuit, St. Thomas Aquinas and national No. 7-ranked Belen Jesuit.

Bishop Kenny also traveled to Melbourne Central Catholic on Nov. 11 and welcomed 2A semifinalist Orlando Bishop Moore, Flagler Palm Coast and Spruce Creek to William H. Johnston Stadium.

That's on top of a slate of local playoff teams, including Episcopal, Fernandina Beach, Fletcher and Paxon.

Win, lose, or draw - a 3-1 win at Berkeley Prep and a tie at giant Aquinas were the biggest road successes - those challenges helped a team with just three seniors (goalkeeper David Bishop and defenders Jake Franco and Seba Moreno) grow rapidly.

"It really helped us work and hone our skills against really tough teams," he said. "I think the challenge made us better. The kids realized how great they could be if they really focused and played to their potential."

The statistics don't lie.

Auldridge runs down the numbers from the team's analytics - 70 to 80 midfield takeaways per game, 75 percent possession - while describing the quick-moving passing game organized by midfielders John Darling, Luka Gjuraj and Charlie Wilkinson. …

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