Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Strawberry Crest boys soccer seniors never stopped believing

Seniors Mazeed Aro-Lambo, from left, Rahul Patel, Patrick Mayo, Noah Shaffer and Tarek Kazbour gather after a recent victory. They have been with the Chargers since the school opened.

Darek Sharp | Special to the Times

Seniors Mazeed Aro-Lambo, from left, Rahul Patel, Patrick Mayo, Noah Shaffer and Tarek Kazbour gather after a recent victory. They have been with the Chargers since the school opened.

DOVER — They told Plant City just wait until 2012.

They told Durant just wait until we're seniors.

They were right.

Strawberry Crest's boys soccer team is undefeated. Not bad for a fourth-year program, but especially not bad for one that has never finished with a winning record.

While no one on the team could have predicted a 9-0-1 start, the success is something they saw coming. Five seniors, all of whom have been with the Chargers since they first took the field in 2009, have seen their predictions come true.

"I remember when we were freshmen. Against Durant (a 4-0 loss), Newsome (8-1), Plant City (6-0 in the Chargers' first-ever game) … those teams would trash talk us as they were beating us," recalls Rahul Patel. "We told them just wait, wait until our senior season."

Chargers left defensive back Tarek Kazbour: "We knew from day one, as seniors we were going to be pretty good."

So did Chargers head coach Scott Vomacka, who guided the team through 5-11-1 and 5-10-3 records before they pulled to the .500 mark last year.

Before he took the job after coaching at Leto, Vomacka was made aware of a quartet that had excelled at playing together for the Brandon Area Youth Soccer League, or BAYSL, since age 12.

Now Noah Shaffer, Mazeed Aro-Lambo, Patel and Kazbour along with the fifth four-year player, Patrick Mayo, are showing every bit of that promise.

Still, undefeated?

"No, I didn't really see it to this level," Vomacka said before a recent 5-0 Chargers victory against Tampa Bay Tech.

The Titans came into the night tied for second in district play, having given up just seven goals all year.

But Strawberry Crest controlled play entirely, resulting in three first-half goals all off pressure in front of the Titans' net. Big sophomore defender Chandler Powell pounded in the first goal while the slick-footed Aro-Lambo was there for the next two, extending his team high mark to 11 goals on the year.

Aro-Lambo, incidentally, has an offer for a full academic scholarship to Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

"We have a smart group. Much smarter than me," said Vomacka. "This is just such a great group of kids. I knew we'd be a decent team this year, knew we'd be competitive."

He said what has pushed the Chargers to the undefeated level has been its better-than-predicted guile and gumption.

An early indication came in a 2-1 victory against Durant, but, ironically, it's the only blemish on the record that best reflects the team's strength.

In a 3-3 tie with Hillsborough early in the year, Strawberry Crest trailed 3-0 with 30 minutes left and not only evened things up, it had several chances to win in the last 10 minutes.

Another key win came in a 3-2 win over Brandon on Nov. 27. Then came the big game on Dec. 14 at Plant City.

The Chargers came away with an ultra satisfying 2-0 victory that clinched the top seed in the district tournament.

They certainly have help, but the five BAYSL-groomed seniors (Mayo switched to BAYSL last year because, as he says, "I was a senior and I wanted to have fun") are the unquestioned leaders.

Shaffer says that as freshmen, the then-quartet of BAYSL standouts struggled to make a mark because the team's upperclassmen had a tough time turning over the leadership roles to ninth-graders. But this year's team is completely in tune.

Aro-Lambo says the entire team feeds off the seniors, who themselves have quite a bond.

"It's like we communicate telepathically," he said. "Everyone knows what the other is going to do."

Which is why it's fitting that though none of the five had to say it Tuesday, they all know a big playoff run could be in store.

Strawberry Crest did make the postseason last year, however it lost 6-1 to Plant City in the district final then was humbled 7-0 by Seminole in the regionals.

This year, expect things to be different. But don't count out Plant City. In fact, the Raiders would love nothing more than to get the Chargers in the district finals again, and it could happen thanks to the Raiders' Dec. 18 defeat of Armwood.

That lifted Plant City to the No. 3 seed for the district tournament, and in the opposite side of the bracket from the Chargers, who will receive a bye and take on either East Bay or Tampa Bay Tech in the semifinals.

Plant City hosts the 4A-District 9 tournament beginning Jan. 22.

Strawberry Crest boys soccer seniors never stopped believing 12/27/12 [Last modified: Thursday, December 27, 2012 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Crosstown rivals Bloomingdale-Newsome kick off season

    Footballpreps

    LITHIA — In a week filled with area football rivalries, there is a game on the east side of Hillsborough County — Bloomingdale vs. Newsome — that has matured into a classic crosstown battle, complete with classic cliches.

    Bloomingdale wide receiver Ed Amos charges through a drill a few days before the big rivalry game against Newsome on Friday night.
  2. Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast: Several key players still sidelined

    Bucs

    Greg Auman gives an injury update, with several key players still sidelined from practice three days before the Bucs play the Cleveland Browns in Tampa, and a full recap of your favorite scenes from Tuesday …

    Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans was held out of practice Wednesday at One Buc Place. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
  3. Playoff ambitions evident in opener for Zephyrhills, Wiregrass Ranch

    Footballpreps

    WESLEY CHAPEL — A new football season in Pasco County begins Friday night, but this one promises to be like none before it — with more math than ever. A new playoff system emphasizes schedule strength, making non-district tilts particularly important.

    Wiregrass Ranch wide receiver Jordan Miner catches a pass in spring practice at Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel on Monday, May 1, 2017.
  4. Dirk Koetter says Bucs used team meeting to discuss social issues

    Bucs

    Four days before their preseason home opener against the Cleveland Browns, which had 12 players not stand for the national anthem prior to their last game, the Bucs used their team meeting to discuss social issues that might have led to that demonstration, coach Dirk Koetter said.

    "The main thing is we have to respect everybody's opinion," Dirk Koetter said, "because everybody is not going to agree." [AP photo]
  5. Rookie tight end Antony Auclair making case to stick with Bucs

    Bucs

    Don't let his modest preseason stats fool you: Antony Auclair, the undrafted rookie tight end from Canada is making a strong case to stick around on the Bucs' 53-man roster this season.

    Bucs tight end Antony Auclair (82) collides with a defender following a catch during training camp. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]