The 2022-23 Windermere High boys soccer team was one of the best in West Orange and Southwest Orange County. The team finished with a 13-2-2 record, won the Class 7A, District 5 championship and advanced to the Class 7A regional semifinals — the farthest of any area 7A school.
It’s safe to say that it was a successful season for the squad with 14 seniors, including Gabriel Farid — the now Eckerd College player — and Gabriel Simoes, who combined to score 19 goals and assist 17 more.
Beyond losing its two top playmakers and more than half of the team to graduation, the 2023-24 version of the Wolverines also introduced a new coach.
Many may have taken those factors and deduced that it would be a rebuilding year for Windermere. Luckily for the Wolverines faithful, new coach Lou Romao wasn’t among them. Instead, the veteran area coach saw something special in this team and helped lead the 23-24 Windermere team to an undefeated regular season record, 13-0-1.
“It’s like a fairytale come true,” Romao said. “I can’t take the credit for myself. The coaching staff that I have helped me tremendously with this. My assistant coaches, Nick and Ruben, both were a huge asset to where we are with this undefeated season.
“A lot of the reason for this achievement was just the chemistry we had between the coaches and players, (and) the players wanting to be here and having such a drive to win,” he said. “You can tell that they don’t like to lose, and that’s not something anyone can coach. But it just feels incredible and coming to this program has just felt like a match made in heaven for me.”
Editor's Note: Windermere’s only non-win of the season was a 3-3 draw on the road to Horizon (9-3-4) in the West Metro Conference tournament. The Hawks ultimately advanced in the tournament after winning 4-2 in penalty kicks, but because it was a tournament game, the official record lists the final as a tie. In this case, the penalty shootout was used only to dictate which team advanced in the tournament.
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This Wolverines team was dominant in all stages of play. In attack, Windermere scored 71 goals in its 14 games, an average of over five goals per game. The Wolverines scored fewer than three goals only twice.
On the front line for Windermere’s potent attack was senior winger Jose Moyetones, who scored 18 goals and dished out 19 assists — both the most on the team. Along with Moyetones, fellow senior Arthur Cavalcanti has also had a tremendous season so far with 11 goals and six assists, and junior Kaike Maia scored 12 times and had four assists.
In defense, the Wolverines only allowed 13 goals in their 14 matches — that’s a combined goal differential of +58 for the season — had five clean sheets and held its opponents to one goal or fewer in 11 games.
“What really got us here was that we were all on the same page,” Romao said. “We all had the same vision and the same goal. When you put that all together, that pretty much makes a great team. From the coaches to the players, we were just united in general. It was nice to see everybody working hard for (one another); that really was a huge aspect of our success so far.”
Romao and his team will look to keep their shared vision rolling through the playoffs, putting behind the regular season success and focusing on what’s ahead — the district tournament.
“Our players celebrated the undefeated season and are happy about it and so are we as coaches, but it’s over,” he said. “Now, it’s time for the real work — the most important part of the season: the playoffs. That is our main goal right now — focusing on winning the district tournament. Then, we’ll move on to regional and then the ultimate goal of states.”
However, to achieve that, Romao knows it will come down to the team’s mental toughness.
“It has nothing to do with skills, because all the players we’re going to play against in districts, regionals or in states, they’re going to be very closely matched in terms of talent,” he said. “It’s all going to come down to mental mistakes. Whoever makes the most mistakes is going to lose, and whoever limits their mistakes is going to win. So, that’s really the only thing I can do to try and prepare them now. We’re obviously a very skilled team, but the focus in the playoffs is on getting them mentally prepared for who we have to play next.”
Windermere’s road to states starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26, in the second round of the 2023-24 FHSAA Class 7A, District 5 tournament.
After earning the No. 1 seed in the district, the Wolverines will have a first-round bye and will meet the winner of the Freedom (5-5-6) at Olympia (9-6-1) match. Windermere beat both teams in the regular season — topping Freedom, 3-2, and Olympia, 4-2.
Sam Albuquerque is the Sports Editor for the Orange Observer. Please contact him with story ideas, results and statistics.
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