SARASOTA -- Unfortunately for Manatee its Class 5A-District 8 semifinal boys soccer match was a microcosm of the season.
The Hurricanes took an early lead, suffered a key injury and eventually dropped a 3-1 decision to host Riverview to finish the year at 5-6-1.
It was Manatee' third loss to Riverview and each time the Canes led in the match, but couldn't hold on.
A positive for Manatee is that Jeff Hernden, the Canes' fourth coach in four years, said he would return next season.
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"The season has been a roller coaster," Hernden said. "For the first time, we had a full squad because of all the injuries we had this year. We've had everything from concussions to knees, to ankles to shoulders to ribs. There were a couple of games where we barely finished with 11 fit players. But I loved every second coaching these guys."
Manatee took a 1-0 lead 68 seconds into the match thanks to a goal from senior Edson Chavez with an assist from Luis Segura and maintained a 1-0 advantage at halftime.
"I am disappointed, but we all worked hard and I am glad for the incoming freshman who are going to be here next year," Chavez said. "We had a lot of of injuries this year mostly with our defenders."
Riverview tied the game in the 56th minute on a corner kick from Adam Bates and five minutes later Chris Mercandetti knocked in a ricochet.
The Rams sealed the match on a goal by Bates with less than four minutes left.
"We were playing fantastic and the first half went very well. We kept our composure and we were creating opportunities, but we just couldn't put that last finishing touch in," Hernden said. "The longer the game stayed 1-0 the more dangerous it was going to get. In the second half, we gave up one too many corners. We couldn't clear our
end and they put us under pressure."
Manatee struggled to control the ball in the second half and spent most of the time on defense
The Canes led 1-0 when freshman center defender Devon' Heaven went out with a shoulder injury.
"We lost a lot of our speed in the back when that happened and then they scored their first goal.
He is our tallest and fastest player so it was a big loss to lose him," Hernden said. Manatee finished with four shots on goal and Riverview had three. The third-seeded Hurricanes lost to second-seeded Riverview 4-3 during the regular season and they played to a 2-2 deadlock.
Hernden said he believes his return next season will add much needed stability to the program.
"It's been really tough (fourth coach in four years) because you get a different mentality coming in and different styles of play, but hopefully we put that transition behind us," Hernden said. "I am planning on being here a very long time."