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Varsity Boys Soccer Team Takes Aim At State Title
Posted 02/15/2012 11:23AM
 Senior Gustavo, Freshman Gui Pires,
Sophmore Oscar Skjaerpe and Senior
Rodrigo Diaz bring an international flavor to
the Tampa Prep boys soccer team.

TAMPA - Tampa Prep boys soccer coach Doug Smith has enjoyed guiding some diverse players during his tenure at the school, but he's never had a group with such an international flavor like this year's squad.

For starters, there's Brazilian brothers Gustavo Pires, a senior forward, and Gui Pires, who as a freshman has turned out to be the starting goalkeeper. Then there's Oscar Skjaerpe, the team's 6-foot-3 central defender from Norway. At central midfield, Venezuelan native Rodrigo Diaz is a 5-foot-6 dynamo whose family now lives in Canada.

From a coach's perspective, it's an international line that runs straight up the field from goal to goal. And with assistant Santiago Carreno helping out on the sidelines with Smith, the trend continues to the Terrapins' bench. But these players and coach also bring a certain style of play to the squad, one that has helped lift Tampa Prep into Friday's Class 1A state title game at the University of South Florida's new soccer stadium against Fort Myers Evangelical Christian.

"Between us (non-U.S. players) on the field, I think we feel a little more comfortable playing with each other because I think most of the guys would probably play a different style," said Diaz. "I still work well with the other players here and can play that type of soccer. But with Gustavo being at forward and me in the midfield and both of us having a South American background, we really communicate at a special level."

Diaz says it's even true with Skjaerpe, who is arguably one of Hillsborough County's top all-around athletes. Still only a sophomore, Skjaerpe went from competing for Tampa Prep in the state cross country championships and competing on the swim team last fall seemlessly over to the soccer team. And no matter what happens in Friday's state soccer finals, he will next head to the school's track squad, where last year as a freshman he helped the 4 x 800-meter relay team finish fourth in the 1A state championships.

In last week's state semifinals, Skjaerpe headed in two goals - his highest production of the season for a single game. He credits, of course, his teammates for assisting him on those set pieces but he, too, seems to follow an international style of play and looks at ease playing as a stopper just behind Diaz in midfield and in front of Pires in goal.

"It's a good all-around mix of guys on the team," Skjaerpe said. "Ro (Diaz) is so fast and a good passer of the ball and Gui has done great for us as a freshman."

The State Championship game is set for Friday night at the University of South Florida, kick off is 5:00 pm.

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