For the second consecutive year, the Gainesville High boys soccer team advances to the Class 6A semifinals.
The Red Elephants are set to host Cambridge at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. It will be a rematch of last season’s semifinals, in which Cambridge left with the win.
The fanfare at City Park began 25 minutes into Gainesville’s quarterfinal match against Richmond Hill and continued as the Wildcats pushed the game within one with six minutes remaining.
The Red Elephants, however, did not relinquish their lead in their 4-3 victory, though Gainesville coach Elie Viviant was not particularly happy with his team’s performance on Wednesday.
“We didn’t play too well, and we let three goals in,” Viviant said. “If we play like that, then the next game is going to be our fault. So we better play a little bit better than that.”
Erik Sica-Ixcoy’s throw-in to Bryan Lopez during the 25th minute sparked the Red Elephants’ initial offensive run. Before the ball reached the back left of the net, Sica-Ixcoy stood out of bounds in line with the penalty box before stroking a clean throw past several defenders. Lopez followed with a swift shot past Wildcats goalkeeper Ryan Quick.
Six minutes later, Jose Aguilera came within arms reach of Quick, duping him at the penalty line and stroking a slow mover into the goal to put the Red Elephants up 2-0.
Richmond Hill entered the second half brewing. Within the first few seconds of the second half, Bryant Gilmore scored. He then placed a header into the hands of jumping goalkeeper Eduardo Bautista, just shy of the crossbar.
Gainesville’s Armando Hernandez responded in the 49th minute with a goal, duping Wildcat defenders and beating Quick to the net.
One minute later, Pedro Santos finagled through multiple defenders — dropping Quick in the process — for an uncontested tap in.
Santos’ goal became the difference-maker.
At the 66th minute, Gainesville surrendered a goal to cut the lead, 4-2.
Richmond Hill’s Geoffrey Sawers put the Wildcats within one with seven minutes remaining after pushing a header past goalkeeper David Esquivel, who subbed in for Bautista after colliding with a defender earlier in the game.
The Wildcats had several opportunities to equalize the match within the final minutes until they were left with nine players on the field. Britton Williams was red carded after violently pulling Hernandez to the ground. Jackson then contested the foul with the referee, resulting in his own red-card violation.
Hernandez had to be carried off the field as a result, but Viviant assures the injury is not major.
“He got the knock on his leg that’s why I didn’t put him back out, but I think he’s going to be fine,” Viviant said.
Bautista collected three saves before being forced to leave the game during the 45th minute after a Wildcats kicked him in the stomach on a contested shot.
Fortunately, Viviant believes he will be ready for Tuesday’s semifinal match.