Superb Soccer Season

After years of disappointing seasons and subpar finishes, the boys soccer team here at AHS has found their footing as the team has jolted out to a 9-3-7 (wins-draws-losses) record and have large aspirations for not only this season, but for many seasons to come. This team prides themselves on their ability to handle adversity and a stout line of defense. With five freshmen on the varsity team, this season is just as much as a look to the future as it is about the present.

Senior Goalkeeper, Joshua Oakley has witnessed the transformation of this team firsthand. “I’ve played for the team since my freshman year. I was on JV my whole first year. I have been a starter on Varsity since my sophomore year.” Joshua adds, “I am still amazed at what our team has put together this season. We are 9-3-7(W-D-L) and still have more games to play in regionals. We are the best boys soccer team in Apopka history. I would have not believed it two years ago if you told me that we would end this season with a winning record and make it to regionals. It’s great to be part of something like this and have success when we’ve been struggling for years.” Joshua believes that there’s been an improvement in team chemistry and how it’s been vital in the team’s success “Our team has ‘clicked’ in a way that it hasn’t during my previous three years. I wouldn’t say that we are much more skilled individually than in previous years, but we have played so much better as a team. We have gotten better as the season has gone on because we get better at playing with each other.”

Joshua does see clear strengths with this team, “I would say our two best strengths this year would be our improved defense and our ability to keep our head up. We have managed to concede a lot fewer goals this season than in previous seasons. When you on average concede three-plus goals every game it makes it incredibly hard to win. We have tightened up the defense and have gotten multiple clean sheets (shutouts) so far which makes it a lot easier to win games. Our other strength is mental. We have suffered some bad losses this season and bounced back which is something that we have not been able to do in previous seasons. In our second to last regular-season game, we lost 3-2 at the very end. It was a tough loss but two days later we went to Wekiva and mercy-ruled them 8-0. It is that type of mental fortitude which has served us greatly this year.” That success allows him to have this optimistic take on the future. “We have five freshmen on the varsity team this year which is unusually high. We also have multiple juniors who will be leaders on the team next year, and our JV team has many promising players. I hope these things translate well into the coming seasons. I would like this year’s success to be the start of a new era with the boy’s soccer program and that they strive to establish themselves as a prominent team that will challenge the district every year.”

The Blue and White also had the opportunity to speak with third year head coach Doug Matthews. Matthews coached the girls soccer team for twenty-six years here at Apopka before coming out of retirement to coach the boys team. Matthews echoed the sentiments shared by Oakley. He shared his thoughts as to why the team improved with this comment about his players adaptability: “The players have worked hard to play the system that we run during games and also doing the fundamental needed to become a better team.” Coach Matthews applauded the team’s defense as well as offensive improvement for their role in the team’s success. “The strength of the team is playing great defense and also the offense becoming a good scoring team.” he stated. As Matthews looks into the future he tells us, “We feel this year’s team success will show the young players coming in next year what it takes to win.”

For a program that has struggled for years, this year has brought about change, a welcome one at that. While this year was a vast improvement from the past, with so much young potential on the roster, it’s not unimaginable for one to see big things in this team’s future. Big things, like a championship.

***At the time of this publication, the Lake Nona varsity soccer team won Wednesday’s playoff game against Apopka by a score of 8-0. The staff of The Blue and White congratulates our AHS team on a stellar season. We can’t wait to see what next year brings.