In just about every year of its existence, the Wiregrass Ranch High boys soccer program has been able to reload.
This year, for the first time in a long time, it is rebuilding.
“We haven’t had to do this since, well, our first year,” says head coach Dave Wilson.
However, as the 2022-23 soccer season kicks off, Wilson finds himself dealing with a significant amount of newcomers as he tries to keep the Bulls atop the local boys soccer scene.
Wiregrass Ranch lost 13 of last year’s 19 players to graduation, and 10 of the 17 players on his roster this year are either freshmen or sophomores.
And yet, that hasn’t stopped the Bulls from getting off to a 7-2 start.
“It’s a rebuilding year that we hope to turn into a reloading year,” Wilson says. “It’s basically a whole new team. But, we have the tradition here, that bar has been raised and it makes the guys know what is expected.”
What is expected is a ninth straight Sunshine Athletic Conference East title, a Class 6A, District 9 title and maybe a playoff win or two.
The Bulls have the talent, with seniors Cole Turner (MF/D), Jeremy Caruso (MF) and Briggs Bent (D/F) leading the way.
Wiregrass Ranch also has been bolstered by the addition of senior forward Alex Rodriguez, playing his first season for the Bulls after playing in the U.S. Academy program the past three years. He scored four goals in the first three games, and leads the team with eight goals in seven matches. Sophomore forward Alexei Leon, who scored nine times last year as a freshman, is second on the team with five goals.
Caruso led the Bulls with 27 assists and already has nine early on this season.
Wilson also expects big things from sophomore twins Malachi and Mykall Lewis, whose brothers Malcom and Maurice are former Bulls standouts.
“I think we always expect to be in the hunt for the district title,” Wilson says. “This group is just going to keep on getting better and better.”
‘Cats Look For Repeat
Wesley Chapel, 17-6-1 and District 5A-6 champs last year, must replace its leading scorer, but senior forward Josh Lindo (12 goals, 5 assists last season) and senior midfielder Lucas Herrera (11 goals, 15 assists) are up for the challenge. Lindo (five goals so far) and sophomore striker Cameron Brunner (three goals) are leading the way for WCH so far, as the Wildcats have started out 3-1-1.
Coyotes Contending Again
The Cypress Creek High Coyotes are coming off an 11-6-2 season where they finished as the District 5A-6 runners-up behind Wesley Chapel.
At 4-2 so far with losses to undefeated Sunlake and Wesley Chapel, the Coyotes return a wealth of talent and should contend for the district title again.
The two players who combined to scored 30 of the team’s 53 goals return — junior striker Jackson Stump and sophomore striker Chase Lasasso.
Stump had 22 goals and four assists last year, and has five goals in the season-opening win against Gulf and leads the team with eight this season. Lasasso had eight goals last year and has four this season.
Midfielders Nicolas Cifuentes (6), Max Laframboise (8) and Jose Pacheco (3) lead the Coyotes in assists so far and keeper Dylan Lolley, who had 142 saves and 2.12 goals-against average in 2021-22, is back in net. Lolley has 27 saves and a 0.90 GAA this season.