This past season, Stoneman Douglas’ soccer team surprised everyone by going undefeated, and dominating their District opponents. Behind their season of hard training and the ever-growing support of fellow Douglas students, the team earned the top seed once playoff time arrived, despite being placed in one of the most difficult Districts in the region.
“No one expected us to go 16-0-4, especially in this District,” junior midfielder Felipe Linares said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of boys to bring us to this point.”
The team reached the position of the 50th best team in the entire nation, and easily passed through their District’s playoff bracket. Placing second in the District’s regular season, rival Boca Raton Community High School – also one of the top teams in the state – had similar success in the bracket, and was matched up with Douglas in the District Finals.
“It was a evenly-matched game, and both sides played their hearts out,” Linares said. “But in the end, a few costly mistakes led to them scoring a goal on our defense, and we lost the game 1-0.”
Despite losing the game, however, the team still advanced to the Regional bracket- as the top team in the District is still given the opprotunity to advance regardless of a loss, with the only penalty being a lower seeding.
“I definitely feel like we are more than just a team – we are a family,” freshman center Elad Yair says, “I think this loss showed that. We recouped and motivated ourselves to move on to the next game.”
And they did just that. After being given a week off to prepare, the team was set to face opponent Royal Palm Beach in the Regional Quarterfinals on January 29th, and used that motivation to score goal after goal on their defense- ending the game with a 3-0 defeat of their opponent. Douglas was on to the next round, and the players could not be more excited. Yet there was one problem they faced: they would now be playing Boca again – the team that had beat them just two games prior.
With a shortened period of 4 days to improve on their previous play versus Boca, the team used the time they were given to go back to the drawing board and practice their new strategy on the field. Feeling prepared, on February 2nd the two teams hit the field in Boca Raton- which had gained home-field advantage and an extra day off after winning their previous match at Douglas.
Boca, who had also defeated their previous opponent, bested the Douglas squad in a 2-0 defeat, which despite what the score suggested was a tightly contested match until the tail end of the second half – an ending very similar to their last match-up. Boca’s team moved on to the next game, and ended up sweeping the rest of the Region, eventually taking the crown as State Champion 2-0 over Winter City.
“We had an amazing season, and now we will have the time to reflect on all that we accomplished,” junior goalie Ryan Irwin said.
The Douglas team now will have to wait until next fall to have another shot at Boca. And, as shown by Irwin and Linares, the players are not discouraged by the loss.
“I know we will improve enough by next season that we will push even further towards the State title,” added Linares. “With this season, we’ve changed the culture of Douglas Soccer. Expect great things.”