King's Academy seeks repeat performance in boys soccer after breakthrough last season
Monday, November 05, 2012
by Jeff Greer
Before last winter, playoff soccer wasn't exactly kind to King's Academy. Five appearances, no wins.
A surprise run to the regional finals changed the tune for boys soccer at the West Palm Beach program, and after losing only two players to graduation, King's faces the daunting challenge of matching the preseason hype.
"High expectations for a team ... that made history last year," King's coach Jerry Berrantes said.
King's also captured its first district title and won an exciting penalty shootout in the regional semifinals over Clewiston. Austin Masi scored 22 goals, and midfielders Bobby Pappas (eight goals, 10 assists) and Lucas DaSilva (10 goals, 12 assists) carried the Lions' possessions and created all kinds of scoring chances.
They're all back this winter, as are defenders Travis Gonzalez, John Mattessich, Luke Mayer and Paul Schumacher and goalkeeper Nick Bates.
But taking the next step won't be easy for King's. Benjamin returns all 11 starters, and if King's tops its regional finals appearance from last year, a potential date with American Heritage looms.
Heritage lost All-American and Florida Gatorade Player of the Year Brian James but still has six starters coming back. The Stallions are always talented, and this year is no exception, with holding midfielder Walker Dawkins and forward Austin Mills hoping to build off impressive 2011 campaigns.
Boca Raton reached the state semifinals last winter but lost to nationally ranked Cypress Bay. Boca's team lost plenty of talent, but Hunter Bandy (Wake Forest) and Nico Midttun (FIU) give the Bobcats one of the best midfields in the country. It only helps that Brian Kilgallon (College of Charleston) is back for another year as the Bobcats' netminder.
Park Vista finally appeared ready to take on Boca on the elite level, but a preseason knee injury to key defender Nick Tripodi leaves the Cobras in need of leadership. Goalkeeper Cory Hartstein returns to anchor what was one of the area's top defensive groups last winter.
Wellington is again expected to be competitive, while Royal Palm Beach brings back a strong core of defenders who could carry the Wildcats to a deep postseason run. And, of course, Jupiter has enough talent to put together another quality season, though it will have to do so with some newer faces.
Five Teams to Watch
Royal Palm Beach
Five Players to Watch
Hunter Bandy, M, Boca Raton
Brian Kilgallon, GK, Boca Raton
Nico Midttun, M, Boca Raton
Austin Masi, F, King's Academy
Austin Mills, F, American Heritage