ISSUE 3: Historic Soccer Season for RHS Ends in DeSoto County

The boys’ soccer Regional Finals game ends 2-1 as DeSoto County progresses to State Semifinals.


Photo Juno Le

2022 Robinson boys’ soccer team captains Nathan Pham (’22)(left) and Naveen Jayaram (’23).

Juno Le, Editor-in-Chief

In a historic season run, Robinson boys’ soccer ended the 2021-22 season at Regional Finals.

After winning an overtime game against the Clewiston HS Tigers that ended 3-2, the Knights took a bus to DeSoto County HS on Wednesday, Feb. 16 for their regional finals game in the Class 4A Tournament.

“This season has been quite an experience,” said Robinson boys’ soccer Head Coach, Jason Roberts. This season was Roberts’s first year coaching the boys’ team and Roberts found that it was full of both valuable and talented players who just needed the guidance.

The game against Clewiston left RHS with an overall season record of 12-6.

“Once they realized they were better than their record previously, they started playing for each other. That’s when at the end of the season their five-game-win streak made a difference in their confidence,” Roberts said.

Before Wednesday’s game, the DeSoto County HS Bulldogs had an overall season record of 16 wins and one loss. Their only loss was in their home game against Lemon Bay HS, which the Robinson Knights had previously beat early February 3-2.

Strong defensive players kept a competitive rally going throughout the game, with notable efforts from McConnell Barrow (’23) and Junior Captain Naveen Jayaram (’23). An unlucky bounce for the Knights led to DeSoto’s goal and shook the team for a bit.

DeSoto took the first half of the game, 1-0. Following a water break, Robinson built up more momentum to recover from the first half. During a free kick just 50 seconds into the second half, a long pass overwhelmed DeSoto’s goalkeeper and Adrian Schumacher (’23) scored Robinson’s first goal of the game.

“In the moment it felt exhilarating to score in a big game like that, but without the team’s success, my own numbers don’t mean anything to me,” Schumacher said.

Things took a turn for the Knights when their starting goalkeeper, Oscar Poland (’23) ran out of the box to get a big clear on the ball, putting all of his weight on his right leg in the process. His knee buckled underneath him, and Poland heard three loud pops before he realized his knee was done for the night. The game came to halt as players awaited the arrival of an ambulance due to the absence of an athletic trainer on the field. Nicolai Merrild (’23) jumped into the game as goalkeeper as Poland was escorted away.

“I wasn’t worried at all about Nicolai,” Poland said. “I had full faith in his abilities as a keeper and I wouldn’t trade him for any other keeper in the region.”

Merrild and Poland’s keeping styles differ. Poland, a more explosive and quick keeper, was put in as a starter to compete against the three challenging strikers from DeSoto’s artillery. Meanwhile, Merrild, who stands at a whopping 6 feet and 6 inches, has not only the height advantage but is also better at spreading out and controlling his game.

“We had a ton of chances on set plays to put them in the back of the net but we came up just short… and personally I think I didn’t read DeSoto’s offense well enough,” Poland added.

Nicolai Merrild (’23)(left) and Oscar Poland (’23) take a moment to pose with each other while the rest of the team warms up before the game. (Photo Juno Le)

There was a long break in the game while waiting for the ambulance to arrive, which only energized DeSoto, who’d been slumped since Robinson tied up with them. Regardless, Robinson kept rallying against the Bulldogs in a now even tighter game. Tensions rose for the Knights in the second half from their multiple penalty and corner kick opportunities.

The Bulldogs added more aggressive attacks to combat Robinson’s defense, heightening the pressure on Robinson. Even with five minutes left on the clock, both teams remained tied 1-1, that is, until DeSoto scored another goal. At four minutes left in the game, DeSoto upped Robinson 2-1. Both sides continued rallying, but the effort fell short for RHS and their season ended there.

DeSoto then moved on to the State Semifinals game on Feb. 19 against the St. Brendan Sabres, which the Bulldogs lost 5-0.

The regional finals game was still a historic occasion for Robinson regardless. The game against Clewiston was the first regional game in Robinson history, and their progression to the next level was an even more momentous occasion.

“This season had immeasurable amounts of impact on the team and the program in general,” said the Team Manager, Alex Galvin (’23). “With a new coach coming in and no new hope for success, being able to make it this far after many ups and downs gives all of us returning to the team and Coach Roberts hope for a promising future [for] this team as well as excitement for what next season has to offer.”

At an overall season record of 12-7, the RHS boys’ soccer team’s 2022 season came to a close at their regional finals game. Nevertheless, the Knights continue to hold their heads up high as this year’s district champions and are already looking forward to next year’s season.

“The goal for next year,” Merrild proposed, “is to keep up the work to reform and progress.”