WINTER GARDEN — Just two years removed from a run as the state runner-up in Class 5A, the West Orange boys soccer program is looking to refine its identity after graduation took a punishing toll on the team’s roster following the 2013-14 season.
The Warriors lost 13 players from last year’s squad, which succeeded in winning the program’s fourth consecutive district title and advanced to the regional semifinals in the state playoffs.
Although West Orange is off to a decent start at 3-1-2 ahead of a rivalry match against the Ocoee Knights (4-1-4) at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5, at home, coach Scott Fisher knows there is plenty of work to be done.
“We just haven’t gelled as a team, we’re not playing cohesively yet,” Fisher said. “We’ve got a lot of new guys in, some young guys, and I think it’s going to take us at least mid-season, to probably three-quarters of the season, before we really gel as a team.”
Key returners include forward Felipe Silva, defender Paul Mansingh and goalkeeper Alec Holland. The play and leadership of Mansingh and Holland is of particular importance this season because, at the onset of the 2014-15 campaign, Fisher labeled the progress of the team’s defense as a crucial factor to its success.
“Our defense is slightly ahead of schedule,” Fisher said. “It’s still a work in progress. … By the end of the year, I think we can be OK, but it’s going to take some work.”
Following the contest against Ocoee this Friday, the Warriors will go out of district to host Timber Dec. 8, before returning to district play with games against Wekiva (Dec. 12) and Apopka (Dec. 19).
Winning a fifth consecutive district title will be tough, though, because West Orange competes in the FHSAA’s Class 5A District 4. Ocoee, Evans and Olympia, all look to be contenders with the Knights off to a 4-1-4 start, the Trojans strong so far at 5-2-1 and the Titans at 3-1-3.
Apopka (0-2-1), Dr. Phillips (1-5) and Wekiva (1-2-2) round out the seven-team district but have not gotten off to particularly strong starts.