The Pirates graduated 12 seniors and seven starters last season and return just four starters.
Matanzas soccer player Nathan Hubbs, who starred for the Pirates as a forward in his junior year, led his team with 32 goals last season. Now, he’s playing defense.
But despite Matanzas coach Rich Weber’s decision to move his premier scorer to the backfield, Weber still expects Hubbs to terrorize opposing goalies in 2017. And in the opening game of the season, Hubbs did.
At the 16:41 mark in the second half against the Bulldogs, the senior took a well-timed pass from midfielder Garet Carter and chipped the ball into the lower-right corner of the net. The Bulldogs’ freshman goalie, Stephen Usina, had no chance.
“Garet played a perfect ball in,” Hubbs said. “I just looked up, the goalie came out and I finished it.”
The score broke a 0-0 draw and proved to be the tipping point the Pirates needed, as Matanzas (1-0) defeated crosstown rival Flagler Palm Coast (0-1) on the night of Monday, Nov. 13, at Sal Campanella Memorial Stadium.
Entering Monday night, Weber, who is in his eighth year with the Pirates, said he’s never come into a season with as much roster turnover as this year's team has endured. The Pirates graduated 12 seniors and seven starters last season and return just four starters: Hubbs, midfielder/defender Kyle Olson, defender/midfielder Tarik Konar and midfielder Zach Verdi.
“We’ve got a lot of youth,” Weber said. “We’ve got to grow. We’re at the bottom of the mountain starting to progress, and we’ve got to build for the top. It’s always a battle.”
Hubbs, as well as the team’s other seniors, will be counted on to mentor the team’s underclassmen.
“I know I’ve got to coach up these young ones because there’s a bunch of new ones,” he said. “I’ve just got to let them know what to expect because I’ve been here for four years and played a lot of games.”
As for getting the win against the rival Bulldogs, who haven’t beaten the Pirates in six years, Hubbs was satisfied, especially after an uneven preseason in which Matanzas lost and won a game.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s always great beating them.”