Cypress Bay this season will attempt to become the first boys’ soccer team in Florida history to win four consecutive state titles.
Winning four in a row is a monumental task in itself, but the job will be made even more difficult by factors that can be labeled under the headings of “competition” and “departures.”
Taking competition first, Cypress Bay this season has been moved into a district with fellow Class 5A power St. Thomas Aquinas, which has won five state titles since 1996, most recently in 2011.
When asked about the challenge of having to beat Cypress Bay, Aquinas coach John Walsh responded quickly.
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“We already beat them,” he said, referring to a 2-0 home win over Cypress Bay in last year’s regular season.
Of course, the Raiders failed to finish the job of knocking off Cypress Bay because they lost in the regional semifinals to Taravella 2-1 in overtime.
This season, the teams will face each other twice in the regular season and could battle again in the district final and in the regional semifinals.
“St. Thomas is a competitive program,” Cypress Bay coach John Ramos said. “We have to go through these types of programs at some point.”
If Ramos seems like he is stifling a yawn as he speaks, that’s just his low-key personality. In fact, he said he didn’t even know Cypress Bay had a chance to make state history until he was told recently by a visitor from outside his program.
Besides, Ramos has enough to worry about with his roster. He lost four first-team All-Broward players to graduation: goalie Hector Fernandez, defenders Humberto Diaz and Breno Ertty and forward Nicolas Guevara.
In addition, junior forward Daniel Gutierrez, who made second-team All-Broward last season, and senior Rafael Arcila were lost to academy ball, and junior forward Daniel Reese transferred.
Opponents, however, caution against underestimating Cypress Bay. The Lightning is one of five programs in Florida history to win three consecutive state titles in boys’ soccer. Aquinas, led by Walsh, is the only other South Florida school to accomplish the feat, winning from 1996 to 1998.
“The reason they are so good every year is primarily because of John Ramos and the coaching,” Walsh said of his rival. “Also, the Weston [soccer] academy is right across the street from where they practice, and it serves as a natural farm system. Good players want to play with other good players.”
Ramos agrees that he has access to a tremendous amount of talent.
“Our biggest advantage is that we have a lot of kids coming from a club-soccer environment in Weston,” Ramos said. “We had 135 kids try out this year, and 100 had actually played club. We weeded that out to 40 kids on our roster.
“I would never claim that our kids come in as garbage cans and we turn them into state champions. Our job is to implement a style that we play and to create team chemistry. Plus, we have always exposed our younger players to a lot of playing time. So when we lose players, we are still able to keep the program at a good level.”
A “good level” is a massive understatement.
During last season’s playoff run, Cypress Bay did not allow a goal. The year before, in five regional playoff games, Cypress Bay outscored its opponents 23-3 and never won by fewer than two goals.
The 2011 regional run was closer as Cypress Bay won four of its five games by a 2-1 score, including two on penalty kicks.
Cypress Bay’s last elimination loss came on Feb. 12, 2010 — 3-1 in a regional final against eventual state champion Boca Raton.
This season, Cypress Bay will be led by sophomore midfielders Miguel Perez and Jake Fuhrman, both of whom made second-team All-Broward as freshmen.
Perez said Cypress Bay wants revenge against Aquinas, and — more than that — it wants to make history by winning state.
“It’s really important for us to win because we lost five players to [academy ball], and people don’t think we have a chance,” Perez said. “If we can win again, it would mean a lot to the school.”