Cypress Bay girls’ soccer coach Katie Dwyer had faith her team could remain among Broward County’s best even after graduating 12 seniors.
The Lightning has done a little more than stay competitive.
Cypress Bay is undefeated after Tuesday’s 3-1 victory at Archbishop McCarthy, one of the county’s top teams.
The Lightning (17-0) has wins against reigning Class 5A state champion St. Thomas Aquinas and Cardinal Gibbons.
Cypress Bay is ranked No.8 nationally by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
For a program familiar with soccer success for some time, having earned its way to the playoffs every year since 2004 which includes a state final four appearance in 2012, it’s been a pleasant surprise for coaches and players alike.
And remarkable considering Dwyer had to move several key players into different roles to adjust to the new roster and strengthen some originally perceived areas of weakness, such as defense.
“It still makes me smile when I think about it,” said Dwyer, who is in her ninth season coaching Cypress Bay’s girls. “The way this team plays together it’s been great to watch because about 95 percent of our players are playing in positions they’ve played in club, but not in high school competition.”
Cypress Bay’s leading scorer the past two seasons, Maria Munoz, a junior forward and All-Broward first team selection, has moved to center midfielder.
Forward Yessenia Koontz also moved to play defense primarily this season and has been pivotal, according to Dwyer.
As a result, Cypress Bay has outscored its opposition 89-3 so far this season with 14 shutouts.
“We knew to make it to the top we had to do what’s best for the team,” Munoz said. “I’m not surprised the changes have worked because as a team this is the closest we’ve been as a group and it clicks on the field.”
The Lightning hasn’t lacked scoring punch either as forwards Samantha Bornstein, Annette Hernandez and Mary Matamoros have all scored goals in key games.
The three found the back of the net Tuesday in the victory over the host Mavericks (16-3-2). Matamoros and Bornstein each scored second-half goals to break a 1-1 tie. Bornstein and Hernandez each had an assist.
Dwyer said she found out the team’s national ranking in recent weeks before her players did and was surprised by how they handled their lofty status with humility.
“They just smiled and were like, ‘OK, Coach, that’s cool,’” Dwyer said. “They didn’t take to social media and start posting it everywhere, none of that.”
The Lightning should benefit if it can maintain that disciplined approach in weeks to come and what promises to be a tough road in the Class 5A playoffs.
A likely district championship rematch with St. Thomas Aquinas looms next week as the teams are the top two seeds in District 13-5A. In addition to Aquinas, a very tough region that includes Miami-Dade County stalwarts Lourdes, Ferguson and South Dade to name a few, and other powerhouses like Douglas loom to the north should the Lightning get as far as the final four.
“Coach makes sure we’re humble and we just play the game and not let anything get to us,” Munoz said. “A win over Aquinas doesn’t mean anything at this point. Each game we have to play as if we really want to win.”