Doral Academy has steadily been making strides in several sports in recent years.
The Firebirds made one of their biggest splashes in boys’ soccer last season, advancing to the regional finals for the first time in the school’s history.
The dream season finished abruptly, however, following a loss to Immokalee.
Led by a skilled squad that returns 12 players, Doral is hoping to improve the ending of the story this time around.
The Firebirds are again one of Miami-Dade County’s best squads.
And following a move up in classification to 4A, Doral hopes to bring home the school’s first team state championship in any sport.
“The team is motivated and is showing a lot of fight and determination,” Doral coach Pamela McDonald stated in the preseason.
The Firebirds went 22-2 last season and return a stacked midfield led by juniors Felipe Ospina and Juan Castano and senior Lucca Barbaris, a first team All-Dade selection.
Doral’s defense should also be solid led by seniors Andres Gomez, Diego Kroeff and junior Josue Rolden, who will also play some in the midfield.
The Firebirds already dueled with reigning Class 2A state champion Gulliver to a 1-1 draw in the preseason. Their regular season schedule included a 3-1 victory against neighborhood rival Reagan Tuesday and a match later this season against St. Thomas Aquinas.
The region Doral moved into includes Reagan and an experienced Belen Jesuit squad that figures to provide the main competition in a nine-team district.
Gulliver Prep is seeking to tie Miami Killian for the most state titles won by any Miami-Dade County if it can win its sixth championship this season. The Raiders are also looking to win back-to-back state titles for the second time in their program’s history and first time since 1999-2000 under then-coach Jorge Dieppa.
Raiders’ coach Matias Asorey, who previously won a state title at Varela, is chasing his third with Gulliver and fourth overall.
Asorey returns a squad that is less experienced than last season’s, but not less talented.
Led by senior midfielder Cesar Roman and senior defender Santiago Burgos, the Raiders will enter the season ranked No. 1 in Dade by The Miami Herald and are capable of making another prolonged state run.
Varela took a step toward returning to prominence last season, advancing to the Region 4-5A final before losing to eventual state champion Cypress Bay.
The Vipers might have the talent to push further this season.
Varela returns numerous starters including All-Dade first team defender/midfielder Fernando Alvez de Olivera, a senior. Senior forwards Gian Artuso and Julian Gigante should provide scoring punch and senior midfielder Luis Peralta and defender Matthew Correa will provide all-around leadership.
The Vipers must navigate through a region that got tougher with the addition of perennial powerhouse American to an already loaded field that includes Coral Gables, Columbus and Reagan.
Monday: Season began.
Dec. 18-19: Ransom Invitational
Dec. 21-26: Holiday tournaments
Jan. 12-13, 15: GMAC championship
Jan. 18-23: Districts
Jan. 28: Regional quarterfinals
Feb. 2: Regional semifinals
Feb. 5: Regional finals
Feb. 10-13: State final four at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne
DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 5A: Cypress Bay; 4A: Tallahassee Chiles; 3A: Choctawatchee; 2A: Gulliver Prep; 1A: Maitland Orangewood Chr.
1. Gulliver, 2. Doral, 3. Varela, 4. Belen, 5. American, 6. Coral Gables, 7. Columbus, 8. Ransom, 9. Reagan, 10. Jackson.
On the rise: La Salle, Westminster Christian, Coral Reef, South Dade, Miami Beach, Edison, Ferguson, Sunset.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS
F Gian Artuso, Varela, Sr.; F Kevin Caballero, Jackson, So.; F Francisco De La Camara, Belen, Sr.; F Holman Rios, Ferguson, Sr.; M Fernando Alvez de Olivera, Varela, Sr.; M Lucca Barbaris, Doral, Sr.; M Wilfredo Dilbert, SLAM, Sr.; M Felipe Ospina, Doral, Jr.; M Camilo Rojas, American, Sr.; M Cesar Roman, Gulliver, Sr.; M Luis Peralta, Varela, Sr.; D Ivan Arenas, Dade Christian, Sr.; D Matias Blanco, Miami Beach, Sr.; D Santiago Burgos, Gulliver, Sr.; D Samir Lopez, American, Jr.; GK Craige Lavista, Columbus, Sr.
OTHERS TO WATCH
FWD: Kevin Ramos, American, Sr.; Natanel Silberman, Scheck Hillel, Sr.; MID: David Campos, South Dade, Jr.; Juan Castano, Doral, Jr.; Mike Figg, Westminster Christian, Sr.; Andrew Geraghty, Ransom, Sr.; DEF: Andres Gomez, Doral, Sr.; Sebastian Joseph, Varela, Sr.; D Lucas Rengifo, Ferguson, Sr.; GK: Alan Landau, Scheck Hillel, Sr.; Alejandro Pujals, Belen, So.; Gabriel Suarez, Miami Beach, Jr.
▪ Team-by-team capsules: www.miamiherald.com/ high-schools
1. VARELA (Coach Juan C. Monge, 3rd year, 36-10-9). Last year: 14-3-3 (Regional finalist). Top players: D-M Fernando Alvez de Olivera, Sr.; M Luis Peralta, Sr.; F Gian Artuso, Sr.; D Sebastian Joseph, Sr.; F Julian Gigante, Sr.; D Matthew Correa, Jr.
2. AMERICAN (Coach Richy Pelaez, 16th year at AM, 26th overall). Last year: 18-2-2 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: D Samir Lopez, Jr.; M Camilo Rojas, Sr.; D Naiver Baena, Sr.; F Enzo Vinuesa, Sr.
3. CORAL GABLES (Coach Joey Hudak). Last year: 17-2-2 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: F Santi Perez-Moreno, Sr.; F Nicolas Poveda, Sr.; D Bruno Falconi, Sr.; F Kevin Gonzalez, Sr.
4. COLUMBUS (Coach Michael Stewart, 7th year at COL, 8th overall). Last year: 19-3-4. Top players: GK Craige Lavista, Sr.; F Charles Polit, Sr.; M-F Eduardo Velasco, Jr.; M-F Juan Carlos Muniz, Sr.; D Daniel Mayorga, Jr.
5. FERGUSON (Coach Jose Aguilar, 12th year at FER, 21st overall, 141-127-22). Last year: 12-6-5. Top players: F Holman Rios, Sr.; M Robert Ore, Jr.; D Lucas Rengifo, Sr.; GK David Grajales, Sr.; D Rafael Gomez, Sr.; D Ryan Siblesz, Sr.
6. SOUTH DADE (Coach Daniel Cordova, 1st year). Last year: 9-4-5. Top players: M David Campos, Jr., Sr.; M Kevin Velasquez, Sr.; F Louis Brown, Jr., Sr.; M Faustino Yanes, Jr.; F Jonathan Laredo, Sr.; F Billy Peron, Sr.
7. MIAMI BEACH (Coach Edgar Botto, 7th year). Last year: 12-5-2. Top players: D Matias Blanco, Sr.; GK Gabriel Suarez, Jr.; M Angel Esteche, Jr.; M Lucas Arellano, So.
8. PALMETTO (Coach Hermann Amador, 3rd year at PAL, 8th overall). Last year: 7-10. Top players: F Cristian Araujo, Sr.; GK Alex Salmon, Sr.
9. SOUTH MIAMI (Coach Victor Arias, 5th year, 19-26-3). Last year: 7-5. Top players: M Andy Reyes, Sr.; M Pablo Trujillo, Jr.
10. BRADDOCK (Coach Manny Soutullo, 1st year at BR, 20th overall). Last year: N/A. Top players: M Sebastian Podgaetz, Jr.; D-F Fernando Arangureo, Sr.; M Sebastian Munera, So.; F Camilo Sondon, Sr.; M Roni Angel, Jr.; D-M Ubaldo Augudin, Jr.
11. HOMESTEAD (Coach Jean A. Daceus, 5th year, 19-44-4). Last year: 2-15. Top players: M Luis Trejo, So.; F Ruben Dimas, Jr.; M Daniel Cantu, Jr.; D Omario Facey, Jr.; F Ramiro Alegre, So.; D Chermen Germain, Jr.
1. DORAL ACADEMY (Coach Pamela McDonald, 12th year). Last year: 22-2 (Regional finalist). Top players: M Felipe Ospina, Jr.; M Juan Castano, Jr.; D-M Andres Gomez, Sr.; M Lucca Barbaris, Sr.; D-M Josue Rolden, Jr.; D Diego Kroeff, Sr.
2. BELEN JESUIT (Coach Tanger Mendonca, 10th year, 113-37-21). Last year: 20-4 (Regional finalist). Top players: F Francisco De La Camara, Sr.; GK Alejandro Pujals, So.; D Anthony Castro, Sr.; F Tavish Rice, Sr.; D Robert Castro, So.; M Mateus Tordin, So.
3. MATER ACADEMY (Coach Arlington Teheran, 10th year at MA, 21st overall). Last year: 12-6-4 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: M Issac Banegas, So.; M David Espantoso, Jr.; F Martin Garcia, Jr.; D Jorge Osorto, Jr.; F Widel Francois, Jr.; F Ernesto De La Rosa, Sr.
4. WESTLAND HIALEAH (Coach Gregory Solano, 9th year at WH, 16th overall). Last year: 10-9-1. Top players: M Adriano Valdes, Sr.; F Kelvin Sanchez, Sr.; M Gabe Rezende Da Silva, Sr.; D Cristian Chirinos, Sr.
5. TERRA (Coach Steven Rojas, 7th year, 44-43-15). Last year: 9-5-4. Top players: D Justin Lee, Sr.; M Karim Debk, Jr.; F Ivan Fernandez, Sr.; M Stephen Chang, Jr.
1. JACKSON (Coach James Willenborg, 2nd year at Jax, 26th overall, 312-140-39). Last year: 14-5-4 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: F Kevin Caballero, So.; F Pablo Medina, So.; M Nilson Henriquez, So.; D Gerson Urrutia, Sr.; GK Junior Padilla, Sr.
2. GOLEMAN (Coach Juan Garcia). Last year: N/A. Top players: M Daniel Ucles, Sr.; D Daniel Espin, Sr.; GK Gabriel Hernandez, So.; M Gabriel Alvarez, Sr.
1. GULLIVER (Coach Matias Asorey, 5th year at GUL, 102-8-8). Last year: 18-2 (State champions). Top players: D Santiago Burgos, Jr.; M Ceasar Roman, Sr.; Gabriel Almayra, Sr.; Lucas Masalo, So.
2. RANSOM EVERGLADES (Coach Dave Villano, 30th year, 419-177-73). Last year: 17-7-1 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: M Andrew Geraghty, Sr.; D Michael Colonna, Jr.; M Adrian Sosa, Sr.; F Alex Stuart, Jr.; M Juan Rizo-Patron, Fr.
3. LA SALLE (Coach Richard Jobson, 2nd year at LaS, 6th overall, 65-14-11). Last year: 7-6-3. Top players: M Juan Carlos Lamuno, Sr.; M Nico Bared, Sr.; M Marcus Cordon, Jr.
4. WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN (Coach Josh Kirk, 2nd year, 12-5-2). Last year: 12-5-2 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: M Mike Figg, Sr.; D Zach Chapel, Sr.; M Trevor Victoria, Sr.; D Stefano Brambilla, Sr.; F Tyler Persaud, Sr.; D-M Nick Auerbacher, Sr.
5. ST. BRENDAN (Coach Juan Mantajarres, 3rd year). Last year: 6-11. Top players: D-M Anthony Ore, Sr.; D Peter Leon, Sr.; D Salvador Mainetti, Sr.; M Luis Espejo, Jr.; M Sebastian Touza, So.
6. FLORIDA CHRISTIAN (Coach Justin Aguirre, 1st year). Last year: 1-10. Top players: F Osmad Bobadilla, Sr.; M Nikky Freixa, Sr.; M Adrian Lengua, Fr.
7. MONSIGNOR PACE (Coach Jonathan Frias, 1st year). Last year: N/A. Top players: CM Matthew DeMoraes, So.; F Victor Manuel Novara, Jr.; F Matias Rodriguez, Jr.; F Jason Hibbert, Sr.
1. SLAM ACADEMY (Coach Daniel Chong, 2nd year, 18-6-1). Last year: 18-6-1 (State semifinalist). Top players: M Wilfredo Dilbert, Sr.; M Victor Benitez, So.; M Jose Guerra, Jr.; M Ayoub Amrouss, Sr.; D Josue Acosta, Jr.
2. SCHECK HILLEL (Coach Ben Magidson, 9th year, 183-17-6). Last year: 19-2-2 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: F Natanel Silberman, Sr.; GK Alan Landau, Sr.; D Salo Lapco, Sr.; D Leon Almosny, Sr.
3. PALMER TRINITY (Coach Eric Perri, 1st year at PT, 6th overall, 29-12-12). Last year: N/A. Top players: F Victor Pagano, Sr.; F-D Pablo Pedroso, Sr.; GK Luca Gilberti, Sr.
4. MIAMI COUNTRY DAY (Coach Jeff Watson, 21st year at MCD, 35th overall, 473-213-62). Last year: 14-8-2 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: M Leo Cragnotti, Sr.; F Agustin Popiloff, Sr.; M Yud Roye, Sr.; M Diego Oropeza, Fr.; D Matias Marine, Jr.; F Aaron Dilworth, Jr.
5. DIVINE SAVIOR (Coach Tim Besterfield, 3rd year at DS, 10th overall). Last year: 12-7-2. Top players: F Luciano Soto, Sr.; M Alfredo Munoz, Jr.; M Miguel Goffredo, Jr.; D-M Felipe Garces, So.; M Joao Pereira, Sr.; F Santiago Salas, Sr.
6. RIVIERA PREP (Coach Steven Spasic, 5th year at RP, 7th overall). Last year: 11-4. Top players: F Carlos Vaca, Sr.; D Nicholas Gutierrez, Jr.; M Harrison Brown, Jr.; M Jose Dapena, Jr.; F Stefano Marconi, So.; M Benjamin Vaca, So.
NOTE: Schools not listed did not return their outlook forms to The Miami Herald.