Sam Session:

Olympia, Windermere High’s budding rivalry is blooming this winter sports season

With about 7.5 miles between the two campuses, an intertwined history and constant district matchups, it was inevitable the two would clash. The 2023-24 winter season may have been the tipping point.

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As I walked onto the field at Scott Pine Community Park to congratulate Windermere High boys soccer coach Lou Romao after his team’s 3-2 win over Olympia High in the FHSAA Class 7A regional semifinal matchup, he turned to me and said, “That one felt good.”

You see, this was 2023-24’s final installment of a Muhammed Ali-Joe Frazier-type trilogy between the two schools. Both sides had a win, and the last game they played, Olympia knocked Windermere out of the district tournament. 

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Romao has almost a decade and a half of history coaching boys soccer at Olympia, with this being his first season at Windermere. 

It is clear these two boys soccer programs are natural rivals, but when you take a deeper look at the two athletic programs as a whole, there are more examples.

There are coaches, such as Romao, who have a deep intertwined history with both programs. The two are constantly pitted against one another in almost every sport — given they are often in the same district — and with the proximity of the two schools, each of the student bodies is at the very least familiar with one another. 

These factors, combined with both schools having top boys basketball and soccer programs, have led to the 2023-24 winter season being the moment this bubbling, under-the-surface animosity boiled over and established itself as a full-fledged rivalry.

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Listen, I know I’m the new guy at this paper, so what do I know about these two schools? Like Damian in the movie “Mean Girls,” you’ll probably say something along the lines of you didn’t even go there — which is accurate; I graduated from Lake Brantley High. 

But like most Brazilian immigrants in Central Florida in the 2010s, I spent most of my time in MetroWest. 

In my high school and early college years, I went to tons of Olympia sporting events, with some of my best friends and their younger siblings actually playing soccer for Romao at Olympia. And when Windermere High opened, I saw a plethora of teenagers from my church — Family Church — pursue their athletic and educational paths as Wolverines. 

I know these programs, and what I’ve witnessed over this winter season is that these two programs are flat-out rivals. 

Another moment that showed me that was the 7A, District 5 boys basketball tournament semifinal between the two. 

The gym was packed, and the Titans’ student section was pretty rowdy, which Wolverines’ star guard Ta’Veon Jones used as motivation.

Members of the crowd and Jones had multiple interactions during the matchup, which were ultimately harmless, but showed just how much both sides wanted the win. 

“The environment here is awesome,” Jones said after Windermere’s 72-51 win on Feb. 8 at Olympia High. 

“They always come deep with their fans; ours do too. There was a little bit of talking between me and the crowd, because they had posted a few things online and that just wasn’t good, so they fired us up. That made us play more together and helped us get the win,” he said.

Like its boys soccer programs, Wolverines boys basketball coach, Mark Griseck, was also a longtime coach at Olympia. He led the Titans’ program from 2007 to 2014 and even coached his son, former Olympia star player and Windermere assistant coach Trey Griseck. 

And like the soccer teams, the basketball teams also continue to run into each other on the hardwood. They’ve played three times this season — Windermere winning the first two, but Olympia topping the Wolverines for a spot in the 7A regional finals on Feb. 23 against Oak Ridge High. 

Beyond the intertwined histories and constant matchups of these two winter sports programs, expect the spring — especially in baseball and softball — to carry the baton of this rivalry even more. 

The only pillar that will be missing — that often defines a great high school sports rivalry — is football, as Windermere will be going independent for the next two seasons. But given the progress the Wolverines have made under coach Riki Smith, a Dr. Phillips Alumnus, I imagine the two programs will be lining up on the gridiron against each other soon enough. 

Sam Albuquerque is the Sports Editor for the Orange Observer. Please contact him with story ideas, results and statistics.

 Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @SamBAlbuquerque

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Sam Albuquerque

A native of João Pessoa, Brazil, Sam Albuquerque moved in 1997 to Central Florida as a kid. After earning a communications degree in 2016 from the University of Central Florida, he started his career covering sports as a producer for a local radio station, ESPN 580 Orlando. He went on to earn a master’s degree in editorial journalism from Northwestern University, before moving to South Carolina to cover local sports for the USA Today Network’s Spartanburg Herald-Journal. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his lovely wife, Sarah, newborn son, Noah, and dog named Skulí.

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