- November 12, 2015
ORLANDO — While the Olympia Titans have 11 seniors on their roster this season, head coach Lou Romao has a young group making up his defense; three of the four defenders the Titans use most nights are underclassmen (two sophomores and a junior).
They are athletic, they are talented — but they are also inexperienced and learning on the job.
“We’ve actually scored on ourselves, unfortunately, about six times this season — which is higher than I’ve ever had,” Romao said. “That’s because the boys are going hard, they’re going tough, and they’re learning from their mistakes.”
Thankfully for Romao, there is senior defender Jackson Mumford and senior keeper Darryl Baptiste to help.
The presence of the two talented seniors has helped the defensive unit progress, and the Titans, at 10-4-5, are ready to take their shot at a postseason run. Mumford, in particular, has been with the program all four years of his varsity career and is a calming force out on the field.
“Jackson is a leader,” Romao said. “His mom and I joke about how he’s an 18-year-old but has an old man’s soul. He is very mature for his age.”
Committed to play collegiately at Newberry College in South Carolina, Mumford — Romao’s selection for team captain this season (the other captain was chosen by the players) — said it is a bit different being the senior leader on the defense as opposed to previous years as an underclassmen.
“More people are looking up to you and looking for direction,” Mumford said. “You’re more of the person who is telling everybody what to do, being a captain.”
Pairing with Mumford as elder statesmen on the defense is Baptiste, who has been with the program for two years now after moving to Florida from Haiti. Although the keeper has not signed with a collegiate program yet and is still learning the position, Romao — who played high-school soccer locally at Bishop Moore High School in Orlando and has been around the game all his life — said Baptiste is a diamond in the rough of sorts.
“I’ve been playing soccer all my life … I can tell you his athleticism is No. 1 (among keepers) — you can’t coach his athleticism,” Romao said. “We had to coach him more on technique, and he’s a fast learner. We’ve only had him for two years, and he’s only really been trained for two years. I could see him playing Division II or even possibly softer Division I at the keeper position.”
That is welcome news to Baptiste, who said it would be his dream to have an ongoing career as a soccer player.
“Me playing goalie, to be honest, it’s a great thing — it’s what I’ve always dreamed to be,” said Baptiste, who had 10 saves in a win over Ocoee Jan. 9. “I just learned and go for it.
“(Playing in college) is also my dream, too,” he said. “It’s what I want to do — I want to play soccer.”
Romao will be leaning on his senior defensive duo as the Titans prepare for the stiff competition in the seven-team Class 5A District 4 Tournament, which begins on Monday. With only two teams to advance to the state playoffs and tough competition — including teams like West Orange, Evans and Ocoee — it will be battle for Olympia to prolong its season.
“This is probably one of the toughest districts in all of Florida so we definitely have to be focused, 110 percent,” Mumford said.
Still, the Titans are optimistic and like their odds — so long as they play hard and to the best of their ability, Romao said.
“I will tell you that our players, if they play as hard as they really want to play, hands down, we can win it,” Romao said.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].