For many of the area boys soccer teams last season, it was a rough one. Of the seven area schools, only two had winning records. But hope springs eternal every November, and the hopes for improvement is in the air.
The notable area soccer standout is coach Joey Sorbino’s North Port squad (11-6-2 last season).
At North Port High School, the expectation is no longer to just win a District 6A-7 title, but to play well into the postseason in February.
And even though the Bobcats lost a big scorer from last season’s team, they are just planning to reload and find production from the new guys.
“We’re in a unique situation where we only have five seniors, so we have a young team with players from a JV squad that went 16-1-1 and scored more than 80 goals,” Sorbino said.
“We’re counting on this young group to gain experience and carry through what they did last season.”
The Bobcats averaged almost three goals a game. The loss of Camilo Arango and his 17 goals, along with five seniors, means the team is going to have to find goals somewhere.
Junior Jeremiah Bohdanets, scored 15 goals last season and will be relied upon the carry the load once more. Chris Lamela, another junior, will have to find the net more often, as will senior Kalani Carrion.
Aiden Luce, Esteban Harker-Barnes and Trevor Brown earned the promotion to varsity and will also be counted on offense.
For all the talk about scoring, the Bobcats did a great job stopping the opponent last season, allowing just 14 goals. There’s no reason to think they can’t improve on that.
Alvaro Amaya returns for his senior year as goalkeeper. Last season he set team records for save percentage, wins and shutouts. Two other defensemen also return.
Sorbino said overall, he has a better team this year than last and should be able to fill whatever holes his squad acquired through graduation.
“We may be able to go in a different direction tactically, so we can achieve higher targets than last year. Every year I challenge my strikers to break the school record,” Sorbino said. “We put a lot of teams on notice that we won’t be taken lightly. This year we have to start competing at that top level. With that mind set we hope we can do something special this year.”
Here’s how the area’s other soccer teams shape up.
Coach: Joe Roca
Last Season: 5-13-2
Outlook: After two good seasons, Port Charlotte took a step back last year as Roca coached up a very young team.
This year’s team is also young as the two top goal scorers from last season return in senior Werner Mendia and sophomore Greg Williams with hopes on improving on last season’s 1.35 goals per game.
Senior Schnaider Joseph and sophomores Trevor Cole, Tyler Wadsworth and Konner Rivera will be expected to improve on their freshmen seasons, with Roca expecting to bring in a couple more freshmen to contribute.
Coach: Greg Winkler
Last season: 6-9-2
Outlook: Last year’s record may not look impressive, but it was a great season in comparison to the past several years, with the Tarpons posting their most wins since 2010-11.
The offense is going to need some punch as sophomore Tyler Amaral led with five goals. He will be gone until the end of football season, however. So, youngsters like Juan-David Munoz and David Lawson will have to pick up the slack for the seven seniors who left.
Caleb Briggs and Jacob Santiago will be two other seniors to provide leadership for this young team.
Jan Corriea, Logan Roughton and Francesco Buscemi will be counted on to continue their growth.
Senior Gavin Pennell, who holds the all-time record in saves, will be between the pipes. Junior Dylan Marsh will help anchor the defense.
Coach: Mark Hertz
Last Season: 12-7-0
Outlook: Benjamin Crumpton was the focal point of the Manta Ray offense last season. His loss means the loss of more than 40 percent of their offense is gone.
It also means new head coach Mark Hertz is going to have to find offense following one of the most successful seasons in school history.
This also means senior Alejandro Carabes and junior Trayton White will become the focal point of the offense this season, provided White doesn’t wind up between the pipes after four seniors departed.
Adam Berry tore his knee and will miss the season, which is a huge loss. However, All-Area center back Harley Rusher returns to a team very familiar with Hertz after having been coached by him as an assistant and JV coach.
Englewood has built a fine club program with many underclassmen coming in. Hertz could find himself building on last season’s success.
Coach: Fernando Zepeda
Last season: 8-9-2
Outlook: After several great seasons, DeSoto took a step back as the Bulldogs had problems scoring goals.
Javier Barajas was the top scorer last season and returns for his senior year. His brother, sophomore Emmanuel Barajas, and Alejandro Garcia also return from a senior heavy team that still scored less than 1.5 goals per game.
Sophomore Jose Zavala and junior Ruben Sanchez may also be called upon to provide some offense, if Sanchez isn’t asked to play goalkeeper, as he did some last season.
Coach: Peter Tomich
Outlook: Tomich had a very young team last year and will try to bring his Indians back to where they were a few years ago, when they were a regional power.
Tomich has several players returning from last season, many of whom were sophomores. The Indians’ scoring was spread out, but anemic, averaging less than a goal a game.
Junior Frederick Mergos is the top goal scorer returning. Juniors Caleb Davis and Joaquin Rueda also return as will junior netminder Stefan Slavov, who can also play on the edge and be an offensive force. Jacob Porvaznik could end up between the pipes if Slavov can score.
Donovan Milano, Christopher Miscannon and Conner Anderson will provide senior leadership for a team that worked hard with club teams over the summer.
Coach: Tony Freitas
Last season: 3-8-2
Outlook: Last season’s team scored a lot of goals, but also gave them up in bunches. But with a very young squad and a new head coach, there isn’t anywhere to go but up.
Freitas believes his team will hang in there with most teams because of their work ethic. Sophomore Michael Olszewski will likely be the go-to guy on offense along with Marlon Ramos. Juniors Bradley Eisenhauer and Jacob Wimmer will help as the outside backs.
Expect a lot of freshmen and sophomores on the roster, and don’t be surprised if some eighth-graders are brought in as well. Austin Perez and Wyatt Rightmire will be among the newcomers.