- September 11, 2014
The 2015-2016 varsity soccer season has arrived with regular season play having started earlier this month.
Seven varsity teams will take the field representing the coverage area’s four high schools this winter with hopes ranging from simply improving from a season ago to reaching the state playoffs.
Last winter saw the West Orange boys soccer team advance all the way to the FHSAA Class 5A State Championship, where it fell in penalty kicks to Cypress Bay, and soccer aficionados can only hope that one of the area’s programs will be able to produce as memorable a run as the Warriors did.
The following is a school-by-school preview of what to watch for on the pitch this season.
As mentioned above, the West Orange boys team came within a few kicks of the Class 5A State Championship earlier this year. Head coach Scott Fisher’s team has graduated all but four starters, though, meaning expectations won’t be quite as high for the Warriors this winter — at least not at first.
“The biggest thing we’re having right now is that these guys haven’t played together,” Fisher said. “That’s the biggest thing we’re trying to get is some cohesiveness. It’s a work in progress. … We are looking at peaking in January. It’s late in the season that we’re looking to really get this together.”
The West Orange boys team is off to a 0-1-1 start as of Nov. 9.
As for the Warriors’ girls team, last winter saw West Orange unseat Apopka as the district champion. Unfortunately, the Warriors finished their season in the first round of the state playoffs and concluded with a 15-2-4 record.
Head coach Stan Banks will be looking to replace some of his team’s firepower lost with the graduation of Maddison Skretteberg, the program’s third all-time leading scorer, and a number of other important members of last year’s squad. Two freshmen, Natasha Ferreira and Bryce Brozovich, will be tasked with leading West Orange’s attack this time around, and junior midfielder Emma Honis is charged with orchestrating the Warriors’ offense.
The team’s new, younger makeup means the leadership of seniors such as Josie Banks and Shelby Swygert will be important to the team’s success.
“Especially late in the year, that’s when that experience pays off in the big games,” Stan Banks said. “When you hit district tournaments, the freshmen haven’t been there before.”
The Ocoee Knights boys soccer team is once again under the leadership of veteran coach Peter Moore. After going 10-6-3 last season, the Knights are off to a 0-2-1 start this fall with a young roster that includes four freshmen and just two seniors.
“We’re just going to grow day-by-day,” Moore said of the outlook for his program. “We’ve got a decent back line; we’re going to struggle to score goals.”
Despite a slow start, Moore is optimistic that his team can make some noise in the district tournament in January — despite playing in a very competitive district with the likes of West Orange, Olympia and Dr. Phillips.
“When the district tournament comes, I think if we can reach our peak, I think we’ll be right there,” Moore said.
On the girls’ side of things for Ocoee, second-year coach Phillip Borde is optimistic his club can improve upon a 1-12-2 mark last winter. With two wins already to the Knights’ credit and an emphasis on pushing the ball, they’re well on their way.
“I think we have 11 returning girls, but we also have a bunch of new faces, which is good,” Borde said. “We’re definitely going to be an offensive team … that’s the way I like to play.”
Ashton Baptiste is in his second year of his task to build up the boys soccer program at Foundation Academy. In his first year, he doubled the team’s win total from the previous season, and the Lions finished 4-6-2. This winter, with the program’s new soccer facility on its South Campus and having lost just one player, he has set his sights higher. Relying on younger players to step up, Baptiste says the middle of the season will be quite telling for Foundation.
“I think it’s going to come down to midseason,” Baptiste said ahead of the Lions’ (1-2) victory over International Community Nov. 6. ”Some of our tougher games aren’t until midseason.”
For Foundation’s girls program, Rodney Roopial is in his fourth year at the helm and excited to have several girls on this year’s roster that have played for him for the duration of his time with the Lions. That continuity — including four girls who also play for Roopial’s club team — has led to a goal of making the state playoffs for the first time, and Foundation’s girls are already off to a 2-1 start this winter.
Legacy Charter is in just its third year of having a soccer program and this winter will be the first time the Eagles will compete in district competition.
Legacy, which does not field a girls team and therefore has three girls on the roster for its boys team, improved dramatically from its first to second year and is hoping for more of the same the third time around. After losing by mercy rule nearly every game as an expansion program, the Eagles won four games last season and were significantly more competitive in their losses. With some continuity to their credit and football season’s end meaning the addition of a few key players, veteran coach David Hill hopes his team can enjoy its first district tournament experience this season.
“This year, I think, we’re a much better team,” Hill said. “I’m hoping that we get to surprise some people.”