Three spectacular championship seasons, each historic in its own way, highlighted the 2015-16 boys’ soccer season in Miami-Dade County.
Nearly a year later, Ransom Everglades, Belen Jesuit and Scheck Hillel is each preparing to repeat the feeling of winning a state championship.
But each of the three has major obstacles in its path.
Ransom, which was founded in 1903 and became a co-ed school in 1974, and hired coach David Villano in 1987, blazed a path to the Class 2A state title last season.
The Raiders appear to have the most key components of that title run back in place with senior forward Michael Colonna (24 goals, 16 assists), the Miami Herald’s Athlete of the Year, and senior forward Alex Stuart (21 goals, nine assists) both in the lineup again.
Senior defenders J.J. Arteaga and Juan Rizo-Patron, as well as senior goalkeeper Antonio Ferrer lead a solid Ransom defense it hopes will complement its potent strikers.
Ransom’s longtime rival, Gulliver, returns 18 players from last year’s team, however, and appears strong enough to take the crown in Class 2A.
Gulliver coach Matias Asorey said his team is two-deep at each position as it will be led by junior forward Truman Gelnovatch, senior midfielder Santiago Burgos and goalkeeper Gabriel Melor and junior forward Lucas Massolo.
Belen Jesuit won’t have to look far to see who its toughest obstacles might be in Class 4A.
The Wolverines are tasked once again with trying to emerge from a district that includes a reloaded Doral Academy squad and perennial contender Reagan.
Doral, which advanced to the regional finals in 2014-15, appears to have gotten stronger with the addition of forward Owen Green. He joins senior midfielders Felipe Ospina and Juan Castano and senior defenders Josue Roldan and Andre Zabala.
Belen graduated its top two players in forward Frankie De La Camara, who scored 59 goals last season, and Tavish Rice. The Wolverines have reloaded as longtime coach Tanger Mendonca’s squad returns one of the county’s best keepers in Alejandro Pujals as well as a solid midfield core led by senior Mateus Tordin.
Hillel graduated the core of seniors, including leading scorer Netty Silberman, who put together the best four-year run in school history, capped by last season’s first-ever state championship.
The Lions will count on a young group to bring them back to the top in Class 1A, which has several up-and-coming teams including Archimedean, Palmer Trinity, SLAM and Miami Country Day.
Dec. 9-10: Ransom Everglades tournament.
Jan. 12-14: Montverde Invitational.
Jan. 16-19: GMAC tournament.
Jan. 23-25, 27-28: Districts.
Feb. 2: Regional quarterfinals.
Feb. 7: Regional semifinals.
Feb. 10: Regional finals.
Feb. 15-18: State final four at site TBA.
2015 STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 5A: Boca Raton; 4A: Belen Jesuit; 3A: Ponte Vedra; 2A: Ransom Everglades; 1A: Scheck Hillel.
1. Ransom Everglades; 2. Gulliver; 3. Belen; 4. Doral Academy; 5. MAST; 6. Columbus; 7. Ferguson; 8. Jackson; 9. Miami Beach; 10. Varela.
On the rise: Edison, Sheck Hillel, Reagan, Killian, La Salle.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS
Forwards: M Kevin Caballero, Jackson, Jr.; Michael Colonna, Ransom Everglades, Sr.; Truman Gelnovatch, Gulliver, Jr.; Owen Green, Doral, Sr.; Daniel Mayorga, Columbus, Sr.; Pablo Medina, Jackson, Jr.; Valentin Sabella, MAST, Jr.; Midfielders: Lucas Arellano, Miami Beach, Jr.; Piero Carreras, Ferguson, Sr.; Lucas Massolo, Gulliver, Jr.; Felipe Ospina, Doral, Sr.; Mateus Tordin, Belen, Sr.; Andrew Watson, Palmer Trinity, Sr.; Defenders: Marcus Cordon, La Salle, Sr.; Eli Knezevich, MAST, Jr.; Samir Lopez, American, Sr.; Josue Roldan, Doral, Sr.; Goalkeepers: Gabriel Melor, Gulliver, Sr.; Alejandro Pujals, Belen, Jr.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Forwards: Josue Aguilar, Miami Beach, Jr.; Francisco Castano, Belen, Jr.; Jose Garcia, Ferguson, Sr.; Tomas Iglesias, Miami Beach, Sr.; Teo Papazian, MAST, Sr.; Eduardo Velasco, Columbus, Sr.; Midfielders: Marc Amores, Miami Beach, Sr.; Felipe Batista, La Salle, Sr.; Juan Castano, Doral, Sr.; David Cuitiva, Archimedean, So.; Nilson Henriquez, Jackson, Jr.; Alex Stuart, Ransom Everglades, Sr.; Kevin Youmans, Columbus, Sr.; Defenders: David Anaya, Ferguson, Sr.; J.J. Arteaga, Ransom Everglades, Sr.; Santiago Burgos, Gulliver Prep, Sr.; Christopher Curtis, Jr.; Miguel Sierra, Palmer Trinity, Sr.; Andre Zabala, Doral, Sr.; Goalkeepers: Santiago Esparza, Ferguson, Jr.; Nick Garcia, SLAM, So.; Gabriel Suarez, Miami Beach, Sr.
COLUMBUS (Coach Michael Stewart, 7th year at COL, 8th overall): Last year: 15-5-4 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: M-F Daniel Mayorga, Sr.; F Eduardo Velasco, Sr.; M-D Pierre Denis, Sr.; GK Gabriel Saavedra, Sr.; M-D Kevin Youmans, Sr.
FERGUSON (Coach Jose Aguilar, 13th year at FER, 23rd overall, 157-130-25): Last year: 16-3-3. Top players: M Piero Carreras, Sr.; M Robert Ore, Sr.; F Allan Jarquin, Jr.; D Erikk Ordonez, Jr.; M Carlos Veintemilla, Jr.; M Emanuel Salamanca, Sr.
MIAMI BEACH (Coach Edgar Botto): Last year: Regional quarterfinalist. Top players: F M Lucas Arellano, Jr.; F Tomas Iglesias, Sr.; GK Gabriel Suarez, Sr.; F Josue Aguilar, Jr.; M Marc Amores, Sr.
PALMETTO (Coach Amador, 4th year at PAL, 9th overall): Last year: 10-4. Top players: F Diego Murino, Sr.; M Nicholas Diaz, Jr.; D Jared Hale, Sr.; D Marcos Young, Sr.
SOUTH DADE (Coach Daniel Cordova): Last year: 6-7-1. Top players: M Damien Sanchez, Jr.; D Christopher Roye, So.; F Faustino Yanes, Sr.; F Julian Urrea, Jr.; M Rogelio Rodriguez, Jr.; D Ivan Sotel, So.
BRADDOCK (Coach Manny Soutullo, 2nd year at BR, 24th overall): Last year: 8-3-7. Top players: Sebastian Popgaetz, Sr.; M Ubaldo Argudin, Sr.; M Santi Garcia, Sr.; D Mathias Gonzalez, Sr.; M Roni Angel, Sr.; M Anthony Lopez, So.
CORAL REEF (Coach Kameron Clark, 1st year at CR, 3rd overall, 19-5-3): Last year: 3-9-4. Top players: M Austen Maysonet, Sr.; F Patrick Munoz, Sr.; Jonathan Smith, Jr.; D Daniel Perez, Sr.; D Thomas Cora, Jr.; D Elias Alvarez, Sr.
BELEN JESUIT (Coach Tanger Mendonca, 10th year at BEL, 16th overall, 149-32-21): Last year: 27-0-2 (State champions). Top players: M Mateus Tordin, Sr.; F Francisco Castano, Jr.; GK Alejandro Pujals, Jr.; M Francesco Armstrong, Sr.; M Juan Felipe Pereira, Jr.; D Javan Rice, Jr.
DORAL (Coach Pamela McDonald, 14th year): Last year: 14-2-3. Top players: M Felipe Ospina, Sr.; M Owen Green, Sr.; M Juan Castano, Sr.; M Andoni Garrogerricachebarria, So.; D Josue Roldan, Sr.; D Andre Zabala, Sr.
MATER ACADEMY (Coach Arlington Teheran): Last year: 10-9-3. Top players: M Issac Banegas, Jr.; F Martin Garcia, Sr.; F Alvaro Zapata, So.; D David Espantoso, Sr.; M Juan Aguirre, 8th.
TERRA (Coach Sebastian Fernandez, 1st year): Last year: 7-7-4. Top players: M Stephen Chang, Sr.; D Robert Fourqurean, Sr.; M Sebastian Ayllon, Jr.; M Jose Vega-Lopez, Sr.
JACKSON (Coach James Willenborg, 3rd year at JAC, 26th overall, 376-112-52): Last year: 16-2-4 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: F Pablo Medina, Jr.; F Kevin Caballero, Jr.; M Nilson Henriquez, Jr.
RANSOM EVERGLADES (Coach Dave Villano, 30th year, 443-181-73): Last year: 24-4 (State champions). Top players: F Michael Colonna, Sr.; F Alex Stuart, Sr.; D JJ Arteaga, Sr.; D Juan Rizo-Patron, Sr.; GK Antonio Ferrer, Sr.
GULLIVER (Coach Matias Asorey): Last year: 12-4-1 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: F Truman Gelnovatch, Jr.; M Santiago Burgos, Sr.; GK Gabriel Melor, Sr.; F Lucas Massolo, Jr.
MAST: Last year: Regional finalist. Top players: F Valentin Sabella, Jr.; D Eli Knezevich, Jr.; F Teo Papazian, Sr.
LA SALLE (Coach Richard Jobson, 3rd year at ILS, 7th overall, 71-19-16): Last year: 6-5-5. Top players: M Felipe Batista, Sr.; M Marcus Cordon, Sr.; M David Medeiros, Jr.
ARCHIMEDEAN (Coach Andres Martinez, 4th year): Last year: 19-3-1 (Regional finalist). Top players: M David Cuitiva, Sr.; M Michael Villegas, Sr.; M Jourdan Zojaji, So.; M Juan Lopez, Sr.; RW Robert Arias, Fr.; D Alejandro Paneque, So.
SLAM CHARTER (Coach Daniel Chong, 3rd year, 29-12-2): Last year: 13-6-1 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: M Arlen Navarro, So.; GK Nicolas Garcia, So.; M Nicolas Garcia, Jr.; M Luis Becerra, Sr.; D Dario Calderon, So.; F Edward Montoya, Sr.
PALMER TRINITY (Coach Eric Perri, 2nd year at PT, 6th year overall, 9-3): Last year: 9-3 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: M Andrew Watson, Sr.; M-D Klever Rosales, So.; D Miguel Sierra, Sr.; F Nicholas Montana, Sr.; M-F Alberto Franceschi, So.; D-M Nicholas Ludwig, Jr.
MIAMI COUNTRY DAY (Coach Jeff Watson, 21st year at MCD, 34th overall, 483-225-63): Last year: 10-12-1 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: M Diego Oropeza, So.; M Khalil Winder, Jr.; F Dre Medici, Jr.; D Matias Marine, Sr.; M Anthony Cervone, So.; GK Michael McPherson, So.
WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN (Coach Josh Kirk, 3rd year, 23-12-3): Last year: 11-7-2. Top players: F Dylan Petrucci, Sr.; D Jeremy Hewett, So.; GK Nico Lopez, So.; D Sean Victoria, Jr.; M Renzo Brambilla, So.