Lemon Bay’s first year coach Mark Hertz had a faint idea of what he was going to get from his offense, but didn’t know exactly where it would come from.
With the graduation of Ben Crumpton, who netted 20 goals last year for one of the most productive seasons in school in history, someone had to step in and produce.
So far, Alex Carabes has been that guy, matching his goal total from last season with seven goals in his first four games this year. The rest of the team has two combined.
“We didn’t know who our leading goal scorer was gonna be,” Hertz said. “Alex has really stepped up. It’s really just been getting out there and just letting them work together. It’s nice to have a team that’s good enough that you can sit and watch them play and only make minor changes here or there.”
The Mantas (3-0-1), along with the Lady Mantas (3-0) and Charlotte boys (3-0-3), have started the season without a loss. For each of them, it’s been a balanced combination of scoring and strong defense.
“It’s not all me, I have to give credit to the midfielders feeding me,” Carabes said. “It’s a team effort. The name says me, but we’re all putting in the effort and without my midfielders I wouldn’t be able to score.”
Not only did Hertz have the task of finding a replacement for Crumpton, he also had to retool the defense after an injury to 2018 All-Area defenseman Adam Berry.
Riding the back line of senior Eli Hamsher and junior Nicholas Neumeyer, paired with the goalkeeping of Alex Johnson, the Mantas have only allowed two goals so far.
On the opposite end of Charlotte County, the Tarpons continue to build the program up and ground out a 3-0-3 record without top goal scorer Tyler Amaral, who was kicking game winners for the football team for the first six games.
The Tarpons have also been missing a key defender in Jacob Santiago, who had offseason surgery, but is slated to return soon. With keeper Gavin Pennell, a three year varsity starter with 15 saves so far, Charlotte has been able to stay competitive in every game.
“Gavin might not be the tallest kid, but he’s a student of the game and knows where he needs to be and is very good at giving direction,” Charlotte coach Greg Winkler said. “Defensively, with our two center backs and Gavin, we’re pretty solid.”
Pennell has also taken to the offensive side as well, though those chances will be few and far between going forward.
Though he’s been a natural keeper, his soccer IQ in the field has allowed him to step out to give the offense a spark when needed and has two goals on the year.
The biggest leap has come from Charlotte’s ability to come back in games, something it struggled with in years past.
The hot start has given the team a spark and in theory the Tarpons should get even better with the additions of Amaral and Santiago. Winkler is enjoying the culture shift within the program and is confident it will continue going forward.
“They’ve have a pattern of not having success, that you have to learn to turn that corner,” Winkler said. “This year we’ve gotten down a couple times and have come back to tie or win. That learning curve and culture is starting to turn. Last year they bought in and have now embraced in. They’re a positive group of guys.”