The Miami-Dade County boys’ soccer team flexed its muscle at the state tournament earlier this year with a pair of state champions.
Gulliver Prep added to its rich tradition in the sport, and Columbus won its first state title.
The Scheck Hillel Community Day school, a rising soccer power in Class 1A, is hoping it is the Hurricanes’ turn this season to celebrate a state championship.
The Hurricanes have reached the Class 1A state final four in consecutive seasons led by the same core group of players.
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A state title has eluded them, however.
Coach Ben Magidson returns nine starters this season and thinks this could be the breakthrough season for the small Jewish school in North Miami.
“After coming up second and third the past couple of seasons, these kids are really hungry to win it all,” said Magidson, who is entering his sixth season at Hillel. “I have a group of six seniors. The first time we went to state, we had no seniors, so now I have a group that has come through the ranks and experienced the path to state.”
Hillel went 18-2 last season before losing in the state semifinals against Orlando First Baptist.
The core of seniors is led by midfielder Aaron Franco, forwards Julian Ribak and Albert Dichy and defender Ben Vaisberg.
Hillel also returns junior midfielder Netanel Silberman, who led the team in scoring last season.
In an effort to prepare his team, Hillel scheduled tougher opponents such as Ransom Everglades, Maitland Orangewood Christian, Tampa Prep (the team that eliminated Hillel in the 2013 state final) and Tampa Catholic.
“All 11 of our starters are talented so for us there isn’t an excuse this year,” Magidson said. “This is the most talented team we’ve had here. It’s time to win it.”
Gulliver won its fifth state title in school history by dominating the Class 2A bracket last season.
The Raiders return a strong attacking team that figures to once again be among the top squads in the state.
Seniors Adriano Castro and Alexander Moztarzadeh combined for 25 goals last season. Senior midfielder Alberto Poleo is among the best in the state at his position.
Senior goalkeeper Esteban Sapentnizky also returns following an 11-shutout season.
Gulliver’s toughest foes include rival Ransom and potentially American Heritage-Delray in the postseason.
Columbus made school history last season with its first state title.
The Explorers became experts at winning overtime matches down the stretch.
This season, they have to master the role of favorites as teams will undoubtedly play their best when playing Columbus.
The Explorers return a younger but talented squad capable of defending its championship.
Senior forward Eddy Diaz and sophomore David Gunter were among the top strikers in last year’s playoff run. They and seniors Casey Quintero, Stefano Dongo and Joey Tolgyesi are expected to lead the team back to state. The goalkeeping duties will shared by seniors Steven Millan and Carlos Rohl once again.
Columbus’ biggest threat figures to come from Sunset, the team it eliminated in the regional semifinals last season.
Sunset returns a talented group of seniors led by goalkeeper David Villegas, defender Juan Duque, forward Luis Martinez and midfielder Angel Rodriguez.
Jan. 12-16GMAC championship week.
Jan. 19-21, 23-24District tournaments.
Jan. 29Regional quarterfinals
Feb. 3Regional semifinals
Feb. 6Regional finals
Feb. 11-14State final four at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne.
REIGNING STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 5A: Columbus; 4A: Melbourne; 3A: Merritt Island; 2A: Gulliver; 1A: Orlando First Academy.
1. SUNSET: Coach: Rafael Porto, 1st year. Last year: 14-4-5 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: GK David Villegas, Sr.; D Juan Duque, Sr.; F Luis Martinez, Sr.; M Angel Rodriguez, Sr.
2. COLUMBUS: Coach: Michael Stewart, 5th year. Last year: 21-4-5 (state champions). Top players: F Eddy Diaz, Sr.; F David Gunter, So.; D Casey Quintero, Sr.; M-F Stefano Dongo, Sr.
3. VARELA: Last year: Regional quarterfinalist.
4. CORAL GABLES: Coach: Joey Hudak, 9th year. Last year: 17-2 (regional semifinalist). Top players: F Pedro Gimenez, Sr.; F Santiago Perez, Jr.; M Rodrigo Garcia, Jr.; M Daniel Velez, Sr.
5. SOUTH DADE: Coach: Ed Callahan, 3rd year at SD, 6th overall, 21-10-5. Last year: 12-3-3. Top players: D Carlos Leal, Sr.; M David Campos, Sr.; D Rogelio Franco, Sr.; D-M-F Timothy Hamby, Sr.
6. MIAMI BEACH: Coach: Edgar Botto, 7th year. Last year: 13-6-3. Top players: F Guido Sosa, Sr.; M Leonel Montero, Sr.; D Benjamin Faundez, Sr.; F Brian Pais, Sr.
7. FERGUSON: Coach: Jose Aguilar, 11th year at FER, 13th overall, 129-121-17. Last year: 10-11-1. Top players: D Lucas Renfigo, Jr.; F Robert Ore, So.; D Rafael Gomez, Sr.; GK David Grajales, Jr.
8. SOUTHRIDGE: Coach: Manny Soutullo, 21st year. Last year: 2-14. Top players: D-F Jhordane Maclean, Sr.; M Rohan Whittick, Sr.; D-M Moises Acevedo, Sr.; GK Josua Loria, Jr.
1. BELEN JESUIT: Coach: Tanger Mendonca, 9th year at BEL, 14th overall, 104-42-13. Last year: 16-3-1 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: F Francisco De La Camara, Jr.; M Alexander Parekh, Jr.; D Anthony Castro, Jr.; D Tavish Rice, Jr.
2. MATER ACADEMY: Coach: Arlington Teheran, 8th year at MA, 15th overall. Last year: 9-6-2 (regional quarterfinalist). Top players: D William Brieva, Sr.; D Alejandro Muneton, Sr.; M-F Eudes Herrera, Sr.; F Issac Banegas, Fr.
3. MOURNING: Coach: Fritzner Ridore. Last year: N/A (regional quarterfinalist). Top players: M-F Daniel Grek, Sr.; D-M Yoni Sonis, Sr.; M-F Aaron Petrash, Sr.; D-M Sergio Perdono, Sr.
4. WESTLAND HIALEAH: Coach: Gregory Solano, 9th year at WH, 16th overall. Last year: 2-11-1. Top players: M Bryam Garcia, Jr.; D Cristian Chirinos, Jr.; M Kelvin Sanchez, Jr.; F-M Gabriel Rezende Da Silva, Jr.
1. DORAL: Coach: Pamela McDonald. Last year: 14-3-3 (regional quarterfinalist). Top players: D Juan Gross, Sr.; M Luccia Barbaris, Jr.; F Christian Cervantes, Sr.; M Jordy Elera, Sr.
2. NORLAND: Coach: Klever Estrella, 3rd year, 3-16. Last year: 1-9. Top players: D Gardel Rowe, Sr.; D Devon Cooper, Sr.; D Lamar Miller, Sr.; F Billy Pierre, Sr.
1. GULLIVER: Coach: Matias Asorey, 3rd at GP, 5th overall, 89-7-8. Last year: 19-1-1 (state champions). Top players: F Alexander Moztarzadeh, Sr.; M Alberto Poleo, Sr.; F Adriano Castro, Sr.; GK Esteban Sapentnizky, Sr.
2. RANSOM EVERGLADES: Coach: David Villano, 29th year, 402-170-74. Last year: 22-2-4 (regional semifinalist). Top players: F-D Michael Colonna, So.; M Ferris Bustamante, Sr.; M Robert Shellow, Sr.; M Andrew Geraghty, Jr.
3. LA SALLE: Coach: Richard Jobson, 1st year at LAS, 5th overall, 58-8-8. Last year: 11-5-2. Top players: GK Gabriel Pineda, Sr.; M Juan Carlos Lamuno, Jr.; M Nico Bared, Jr.
4. WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN: Coach: Josh Kirk, 1st year. Last year: N/A. Top players: F Joey Alamo, Sr.; M Eli Medder, Sr.; GK Tomas Espinal, Sr.; M Ransom Reed, Sr.
5. MAST ACADEMY: Coach: Rob Suarez, 8th year, 30-65-19. Last year: 7-9-3. Top players: M Alfredo Rodas, Jr.; M Daniel Godoy, Jr.; D Luis Garcia, Sr.; F Santiago Morales, So.
6. ST. BRENDAN: Coach: Juan Manjarres, 3rd year at STB, 11th overall. Last year: 4-13-1. Top players: M Gabriel Vazquez, Sr.; F Jorge Mahmaud, So.; F Erick Quinones, Sr.; GK Julian Quinones, Sr.
7. MONSIGNOR PACE: Coach: Andrew Rivero, 2nd year, 2-15-1. Last year: 2-15-1. Top players: M Matias Rodriguez, So.; M Juan Gonzalez, Sr.; F Jason Hibbert, Jr.; F Jonathan Correa, Jr.
1. SCHECK HILLEL: Coach: Ben Magidson, 7th year, 102-12. Last year: 18-2 (State semifinalist). Top players: M Aaron Franco, Sr.; F Juli Ribak, Sr.; D Benja Vaisberg, Sr.; M Netanel Silberman, Jr.
2. MIAMI COUNTRY DAY: Coach: Jeff Watson, 18th year, 459-205-60. Last year: 8-12-2 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: M Pablo Mejia, Sr.; M Leo Cragnotti, Jr.; M Sam Benson, Sr.; M Agustine Popiloff, Jr.
3. PALMER TRINITY: Coach: Scott du Feu, 14th year at PT, 33rd overall, 265-55-46). Last year: 16-4-5 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: GK Andres Castaneda, Jr.; M Keenan Rodriguez, Sr.; F Claudio Wingartz, Sr.; M Miguel Gonzalez, Sr.
4. SLAM CHARTER: Coach: Daniel Chong, 1st year. Last year: 7-0-3. Top players: M Wilfredo Dilbert, Jr.; M Caleb Acosta, Sr.; D Jose Soriano, Sr.; M Cristian Sanchez, Sr.
5. DIVINE SAVIOR: Coach: Tim Biesterfeld, 2nd year at DS, 8th overall. Last year: 10-6. Top players: M Antonio Di Ventura, Sr.; F Andres Bermudez, Sr.; M Mickey Goffredo, So.; D Luca Sepulveda, Sr.
Andre C. Fernandez